The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to look for help along the defensive line this season, or at least depth, given that it is not anticipated they will make an effort to re-sign Daniel McCullers, who has spent the past four seasons on the 53-man roster after being made a sixth-round draft choice in 2014.
He has spent much of his career serving as a healthy scratch on game days, and in 2016 lost out to rookie Javon Hargrave for the starting nose tackle position, a job that opened up after their previous nose tackle, Steve McLendon, signed with the New York Jets in free agency.
There had been hope among some a year ago that the Jets would led McLendon go, believing that they had overpaid for him. That did not come to fruition and he remained with the team through the 2017 season.
According to Ralph Vacchiano, the Jets have exercised their club option to retain McLendon for the 2018 season. The decision was due to be made yesterday. They also picked up the option for linebacker Josh Martin, but did not do so for tackle Ben Ijalana.
Vacchiano reports that the two pickups were not a surprise, due in large part to the fact that they have “nearly $100 million in salary cap space this offseason”. He writes that “McLendon is a salary of $3.125 million this year and has a salary cap number of $4.25 million”.
He did note that “there did appear to be a small chance” the Jets would do to McLendon as they did to Ijalana, noting that they could have cleared over $3 million in cap space in not picking up the option. The former Steelers just recently turned 32 years old.
Vacchiano wrote that he “is also known as a hard worker and could be a good influence on the Jets’ younger players”, which is no surprise to anybody who paid attention to him while he was in Pittsburgh. He was easily one of the hardest-working players on the team, making the most of his abilities and even transforming his physique multiple times.
The Jets acquired McLendon on a three-year deal in 2016 in order to replace Damon Harrison, who cashed in on a massive contract to…well, to stay in the same locker room, as he signed with the New York Giants, who share a stadium. He did move from a 3-4 front to a 4-3, but he has remained one of the top interior defensive linemen in the NFL.
As for the Steelers, they will have to look elsewhere, though it’s unlikely they will make any sort of splash, with big money already committed to Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, and Hargrave and Tyson Alualu providing quality depth. L.T. Walton is also well-liked, though could be upgraded.