Given the fact that he left yesterday’s game with what was evidently initially diagnosed with a concussion, I am going to assume that we are not going to see nose tackle Javon Hargrave participating in the final two preseason games for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Should that prove to be the case, it raises some questions about what we should expect to see over the course of those next two games. It was not surprising to see that it was L.T. Walton who filled in for Hargrave as the second-string nose tackle, as that fits with what we have been seeing.
But in the starter’s absence, will fourth-year nose tackle Daniel McCullers be given more opportunities to see the field over the course of the final two preseason games? And if so, how much does that improve his chances of being able to sneak back onto the 53-man roster?
While appearances are that the Steelers are pushing him off the roster, it is not as though there is another member of the defensive line that is just screaming for a roster spot that would otherwise be occupied by McCullers.
The presumed favorite to take the sixth roster spot along the defensive line has been Johnny Maxey, who spent most of last season on the practice squad but was called up late in the year and played a bit. Coaches seem to be high on him, but even so, that doesn’t mean that he commands a roster spot.
I have not specifically watched for him, but he has not stood out to me so far during the first two preseason games. Aside from that, he would not be getting a helmet should he make the roster. And chances are fair that he could be retained on the practice squad anyway.
McCullers cannot, because he no longer retains eligibility for the practice squad, being in his fourth year and having been active for too many games to continue to qualify. So if he is to be retained, he has to make the 53-man roster.
We should see over the course of the next 10 days just how interested the Steelers are in keeping him. If he hardly gets any playing time, then it will be obvious. They have already made their decision to move on from him unless something forces their hand.
If, however, he does see a lot of playing time, then perhaps there is a chance. And perhaps Hargrave’s third possible concussion could play a role in scaring them into having that extra nose tackle body on the depth chart.
This is all just thinking out loud within the aftermath of last evening’s game, but it is something to consider going forward. It should be as likely as not that they would choose to carry only five defensive linemen over McCullers. We may get the chance to find out in the coming week and a half.