Daniel McCullers comes closer to locking up a roster spot for the fifth straight season with each passing day. That hasn’t been too significant for the past four years, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers have failed to provide appropriate competition for him, but it has meant more for both sides this time around, and it has shown.
McCullers really turned up his game this offseason, and the coaching staff rewarded him last week by giving him the opportunity to start the second preseason game over starter Javon Hargrave. He returned the favor by showing well against a good Green Bay Packers offensive line.
On the first play of the game, for example, he was put in on a stunt. While he lumbered through the actual motion portion of the play, he seemingly bowled over half of the offensive line once he reached his spot, which helped force Aaron Rodgers to flee the pocket. That’s grown man strength. That’s Daniel Ray.
A couple of snaps later, he continued to show the ability to push the pocket, working against the left guard and driving him back. The problem is that he lost his feet and went down along with his blocker, taking himself out of the play. We saw this too much his first four years, but this is the first I’ve seen so far in 2018.
The most-publicized pressure McCullers recorded game on the following play. He just completely ran right through the center with a bull rush on the snap, exactly what the Steelers have been wanting to see him do on a consistent basis since he was drafted. While Rodgers did a nice job of avoiding him, however, he does still need to work on disengaging.
Throughout the entire game, he actually only recorded one statistic, and here it is. on the first play of the second quarter, he recorded a run stop inside the red zone on first and 10. This is a play in which he does disengage and finish the play.
I highlighted, for the most part, McCullers’ positive plays in this article, though I hinted at some flaws as well. There were some bad snaps. He’s never going to look athletic stunting laterally. But as shown here, it can also be a problem. He has edge responsibility, and while I can understand his impulse to move from that spot, he’s not nearly athletic enough to recover once the quarterback escaped the pocket. I’m sure the coaches will have a talk with him about assignments while this play is running.
Still, I ultimately think McCullers has shown himself to be an asset so far this preseason, and most importantly has seemed to make strides with respect to his ability to generate a push in the passing game. That will be key in his getting a helmet on Sundays.