The Pittsburgh Steelers well underway with the offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the heart of the offseason, where hope springs eternal following a few months of pretty significant changes, in terms of both departures and arrivals.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who is the greatest 3-4 defensive tackle in Steelers history?
Let’s stick with the 3-4 defensive line for now and move on to the defensive tackle position, or nose tackle. For the purposes of this exercise, I would like to stick to players who have been used as a tackle in the 3-4 front, not in sub-packages, so that would not include Cameron Heyward, even though he’s officially listed as a defensive tackle as of 2018.
I’m pretty sure multiple factors, including recency, are going to conspire to make Casey Hampton the runaway favorite answer to this question, and would that be wrong? Probably not. He’s got to have been one of the last true archetype nose tackles who are drafted in the first round, because that’s not happening anymore.
Coming in out of Texas in 2001, Hampton put in a 12-year career at a position that often gets overlooked. But he was good enough to get that recognition, making the Pro Bowl five times between 2003 and 2009. The only years in that span in which he failed to make the Pro Bowl, he missed at least three games. I think we all know mere stats are not going to do him justice, because that’s not what the two-gapping zero-tech nose tackle does.
Assuming Hampton is far and away the favorite, then, who would be next? Again, I think recency and projections will have some throwing in Javon Hargrave, and he does look like he’ll be a good one, but even then, you’re talking about a player who plays a large percentage of his snaps in sub-packages now.
Steve McLendon didn’t have the longevity. Chris Hoke was never a starter, but I think he would be a pretty good answer. Joel Steed and Gerald Williams is expect will be the other ones receiving acknowledgement. Gary Dunn was their first nose tackle.