The Pittsburgh Steelers will see a number of familiar faces out on the field tomorrow then the New York Jets host them for the penultimate game of the regular season. They have three former starters for the Steelers in their own starting lineup—not to mention Hines Ward on their coaching staff.
We’ve already talked about Le’Veon Bell a number of times in the past few days, and Kelvin Beachum also remains there as a fixture at left tackle, but none of them spent as much time in the organization as Steve McLendon, who is now in his fourth season in New York.
Originally a college free agent out of Troy in 2009, McLendon first made the roster in 2010, bouncing around, but entered the starting lineup by 2013 following Casey Hampton’s retirement. He spent the next few years battling David DeCastro and the like in practice.
The latter recalled those days during a sit-down interview earlier this week with Missi Matthews for the team’s website. He called McLendon “a great player, a tremendous player. He was great when I played him here”.
“I was a young guy coming in, and he was one of those guys where you look at him and you’re like, ‘okay, that’s what an NFL player is supposed to look like’”, he said. “Really big, really savvy kind of veteran guy, and he’s showing it on the field still. Great stopping the run, penetrating, getting upfield. Coach Tomlin talked about him in the team meeting today, so obviously he’s a presence”.
While he never quite developed as the pass rusher that they thought he might be, McLendon has remained, now at the age of 33, a very stout defensive player in the middle of everything, and has carved out a nice, long career for himself, making some bank along the way.
This will be the second time that he has faced his former team, the first since 2016, a game in which the Steelers won handily, 31-13. He recorded three tackles that day across 46 snaps of playing time. That was the highlight of Sammie Coates’ career, catching six passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. But he broke some fingers in that game and was never the same again.
Now the Steelers have a trio of young wide receivers who were drafted after Coates, but McLendon is still there, now over a decade in the league, still going strong—and still under contract through the 2020 season as well. Major respect to him and what he has been able to achieve, both in Pittsburgh and in New York. He was always an easy guy to like.