If you’ve been following along with the daily Pittsburgh Steelers training camp practice reports that our very own Alex Kozora has been filling, you already probably noticed that third-year defensive lineman L.T. Walton is working almost exclusively as the second-team nose tackle and thus ahead of fourth-year defensive lineman Daniel McCullers. In an interview a few days ago on Steelers Nation Radio, veteran defensive line coach John Mitchell talked a little about Walton’s move and why it happened.
“Here’s a guy [Walton] that we moved from defensive end to nose tackle, because we felt like right there, hey, he’s a good football player and on Sunday we want him to have a hat and the way that he can get a hat instead of being the fourth end, he had a chance to compete against Big Dan [McCullers],” Mitchell said.
“So, those guys are going to battle it out, but L.T.’s a very intelligent player and he’s a player, if you’re the fifth defensive lineman, you’ve got to be able to play end and nose and he’s capable of doing both. But, him and Dan are going to battle it out and we’re going to let the chips fall where they may and see who’s who.”
Mitchell had more positive things to say about Walton, who was originally selected in the sixth-round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Central Michigan.
“L.T.’s a guy, first of all, he’s as very intelligent player and when Cam [Heyward] and [Stephon] Tuitt both got nicked up and couldn’t play [last season], we had to play him and he came in here and he played really well for us in the closing five or six games and going into the playoffs.”
Mitchell’s praise for Walton, in addition to talking about him moving to nose tackle, is obviously not great news for McCullers. We’ve known for some time now that McCullers’ time in Pittsburgh is likely to end soon and barring injuries happening on the defensive line the remainder of the summer, it likely will.
So, what else does this all mean? Well, assuming McCullers loses the backup nose battle to Walton, there’s a good chance that second-year defensive end Johnny Maxey will ultimately make the final 53-man roster as the team’s sixth and final defensive lineman and ultimately be a prime candidate to not dress for games unless injuries happen.