2017 Training Camp Battle Preview: Backup Nose Tackle

As the calendar has finally hit the late-July date that signals the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we turn our attentions for the next few weeks to just that, training camp, the necessary respite for all football fans who have been the past six weeks wondering what to do with themselves—as least as far as the game goes.

With the start of training camp also comes the start of meaningful competition, and I’m not just talking about players getting to put on pads and smash into each other. There are battles to be won. Position battles, roster battles. Battles for starting jobs.

Before we get too deep into the swing of training camp, here is a quick series that provides a preview of some of the most significant battles that will have to be determined over the course of training camp and the preseason, though the regular season can always decide to change the results.

One of the emerging battles that we are seeing so far as the offseason has developed comes at the back end of the defensive line depth chart, as the Steelers weigh their options should they choose to move on from fourth-year nose tackle Daniel McCullers.

Given that the team rarely spends a great deal of time in their 3-4 defense, formerly known as their ‘base’, it greatly diminishes the value of a reserve nose tackle that is largely a one-dimensional figure, even if he claims to be working on a ‘spin move’.

The Steelers brought in a veteran defensive lineman in Tyson Alualu that, when at signing, they spoke of in the context of being capable of playing all positions along the line, even if his primary responsibilities will be at defensive end—or more accurately at nickel defensive tackle, since that is what Pittsburgh plays most often.

While Alualu has not gotten reps at nose tackle yet, third-year defensive lineman L.T. Walton has, both in the spring—with the first team after Javon Hargrave suffered an injury—and now during training camp, relegating McCullers to third-team duties.

It is unclear if Johnny Maxey may have also taken some reps at nose tackle during Friday’s practice, but either way, he figures to be the main competition for McCullers, and the one who will push him off the roster, should that be how things develop over the course of the next month or so.

Basically, if the Steelers are comfortable enough in their defensive line depth to absorb whatever nose tackle snaps they will need to occupy outside of Hargrave, then it would open the door to move on from McCullers, and that seems to be becoming more realistic as time goes by.

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