Player: Daniel McCullers
Position: Defensive Tackle
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2017 Salary Cap Hit: $574,670
2017 Season Breakdown:
I’ve got to admit, I kind of overlooked Daniel McCullers previously while working on this series, which I guess somehow demonstrates the level of impact that he had on the season, and the likelihood of him continuing his career in Pittsburgh.
The reality is simply that McCullers does not and will not play much because what he is capable of doing only accounts for a small percentage of what defenses do in today’s game, which is nothing by a byproduct of what most offenses are doing.
The 6’7”, 350-pound nose tackle is little more than a run-stuffer who occasionally gets stuffed himself. In part due to his abnormal height for the position, his lack of quickness, and his inconsistent use of technique, the big man gets moved around a little too easily a little too often for my liking, something we have seen from him going back to college.
Not that he can’t make plays on occasion when properly motivated. He has the strength and power to drive offensive linemen back into the pocket, both in the passing and running game, but he doesn’t do it with near the desired consistency.
Given the fact that he barely played at all this past season behind Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, and even L.T. Walton, who passed him on the depth chart to serve as the backup nose tackle, it’s hard to say much of tangible value beyond general observations regarding his 2017 season.
Free Agency Outlook:
While the Steelers almost always have a defensive lineman inactive on game days even while fully healthy, it doesn’t bode well for McCullers that he was only active for five games in 2017, corresponding largely to injuries to Tuitt and rest for Heyward in the regular season finale.
McCullers has had four seasons to make an impact, and if the coaching staff felt that he was capable of providing that impact, then, it goes without saying, he would have played more. It is particularly telling that they allowed Walton the opportunity to compete for a helmet by working at nose tackle, and even more telling that he won the role.
The former Volunteer has always maintained a positive attitude about his role and his abilities, and even tried to sell the argument last offseason that he has been working on a spin move to enable him to play in their nickel defense, which never came to fruition.
At this point, it has to be regarded as unlikely that the Steelers will attempt to re-sign him, and if they do, it will obviously be for no more than the veteran minimum. They will likely look for another player to add to the line, either in free agency or the draft. It’s not out of the question that McCullers might find a deal with another team, however.