Good tidbit of information picked up by the Trib’s Chris Adamski yesterday evening. Daniel McCullers told him the coaches have said he’ll play in the regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Though McCullers doesn’t indicate who he’ll be replacing, you can logically deduce it’s Cam Heyward, who will sit out along with the rest of the high-priority players (Ben, Bell, and Pouncey). That means McCullers will get a hat and if Javon Hargrave’s playing time is limited, probably the most snaps he’s had all season.
Which to be fair, isn’t a hard bar to clear. He’s played all of 11 snaps this entire year, recording just one tackle. He’s been the odd man out as the Steelers’ sixth defensive linemen, used only in case of injury or emergency. Thankfully, there haven’t been many of those.
Obviously, it’s been a difficult, disappointing career for McCullers. A big mound of potential as a 6th round pick from Tennessee, he’s struggled to find his groove. More bark than bite, McCullers hasn’t shown much pass rushing ability and with the league gravtiating towards more athletic linemen, his 350-ish pound frame simply doesn’t fit.
McCullers touched on that frustration with Adamski.
“But you know it’s a process, and you’ve got to work hard and show the coaches you can play, so this is a chance I can do that.”
One area he has shown success is as a nickel pass rusher when solo on the center. His length, strength, and sheer mass able to walk centers into the pocket. Browns’ center J.C. Tretter is 6’3, 307, a tasty matchup for McCullers to take advantage of.
It’s possibly his last opportunity in Pittsburgh to prove his worth. Before the year began, defensive line coach John Mitchell challenged McCullers to put up or shut up. Here’s what we wrote back in June.
“‘This is going to be his fourth year. Usually in this league, after about four years, you have got to make a move. Or either you move somewhere else,” Mitchell said, ending his comment with a laugh.'”
Clearly, he hasn’t made much of a move. The Steelers are likely to move on regardless of what happens Sunday but a good game from McCullers could make the team think twice. Or at the least, put on some good tape for whatever organization comes calling next.