It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first breaths of the 2018 NFL season.
Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and restructures to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.
And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.
Position: Nose Tackle
Up for Grabs: Roster Spot
In the Mix: Daniel McCullers, Joshua Frazier, Greg Gilmore
I wanted to differentiate the discussion between the final spot on the defensive line and the backup nose tackle, because it’s not always the same person, as we saw last year. While Daniel McCullers was the last man on the depth chart, L.T. Walton was the one taking the backup nose tackle reps.
McCullers was something of a surprising re-signing this offseaon after he completed his rookie contract playing only about a dozen snaps in his fourth season, but the reality is that they didn’t really have anybody else at the time.
For the first time since drafting him, however, the Steelers did draft a nose tackle body in the seventh round with Joshua Frazier. And that was after they hired his college defensive line coach to be their own line coach, so he’ll actually have a simpler transition at the instructor level than the veteran will.
And rookie undrafted free agent Greg Gilmore can’t entirely be dismissed either, especially if he shows any kind of inside versatility. If the Steelers feel they have enough inside-capable bodies with Walton and Tyson Alualu, Gilmore has a chance to push for a spot just by outperforming the others, even if he is less of a true ‘nose’ body.
Still, I’m inclined to think that Frazier has the easiest path to the roster spot, and not just because he is the only one who already knows his instructor. They also have the most invested in him, even if it’s not much as a seventh-round pick. And he is also a talented player.
McCullers has the edge of being familiar with NFL competition and being in the Steelers’ defensive system for four years already, even if some things are changing at the position level with the change in coach.
Gilmore might be the most physically gifted of the group, which is why he has a chance of pushing for a spot, but we have seen plenty of players, specifically at the defensive line, coming in as a talked-up undrafted rookie only to fail to make an impact, let alone the roster.