Film Room: Daniel McCullers’ Awakening?

Daniel McCullers has been one of the most enigmatic players on the Pittsburgh Steelers for going on half a decade now. Though just a sixth-round pick, more was always expected of him in large part simply due to his size. Knowing that he is now on his last legs, he seems to have put together his best offseason to date, so let’s look at some of his snaps from the preseason opener.

Some of his earlier snaps in the game came in the second quarter after the Philadelphia Eagles scored a couple of touchdowns and he was brought in to cover two-point conversion attempts. You can say that he went one for two in defending them, and he came close on the first one. McCullers got a good jump off the ball with penetration, but couldn’t drive through the ballcarrier to stop him before crossing the goal line.

He did have success stopping the conversion later in the quarter. Lining up over center, he did a good job of keeping himself clean even though he wasn’t right in the trenches. Often enough he needs only be an obstruction with his size, and that was an asset here.

No matter how much he works on a spin move, though, I don’t think McCullers is ever going to find much success as a pass rusher. There were a number of reps in which he simply looks laborious in the attempt. On this occasion, however, he appears to have a coverage responsibility on the running back, something we have seen before.

He did help to influence a couple of passing plays, including one on third and nine. While his teammates gave him praise after the fact, the truth is that the Eagles played him well on this one initially. It was only after Joe Callahan was flushed out of the pocket that McCullers was able to free himself and break on the quarterback, and the linemen can’t see what’s behind them. Still, credit for the effort and not letting him get to the corner.

He also showed some lateral movement working against the run, actually doing a nice job of defending his gap, and once the run cut back inside of him, he kept with the play and got in on the tackle for a run stop along with L.T. Walton.

His best rep against the pass came halfway through the fourth quarter. On second and nine, he pushed the pocket, bullrushing the center and knocking him back before dipping inside and between the left guard to pressure the quarterback into a quick throw, which was nonetheless caught for a big play.

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