The Pittsburgh Steelers came into the 2020 NFL Draft needing, potentially, a starting defensive tackle for their 3-4 front. They didn’t take a defensive lineman until the seventh round, and when they did, they took an athletic, developmental prospect, which perhaps tells you everything you need to know about how they view the 3-4 nose tackle in today’s game.
“A traditional 3-4 nose tackle”, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert began during the team’s post-draft press conference, “I don’t want to say it’s dying, but it’s less and less of base defense. When you’re in a defense 75 percent of the time, different sub-packages, I don’t know if anyone really has a base defense even though you do say you’re a 3-4”.
It seems as though almost with each passing season, offenses are more and more frequently playing with three wide receivers on the field and defense are countering with three cornerbacks on the field to cover them.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t still need that big body in the middle of the line when you’re a 3-4 team and you need to stop the run. It’s easier for 4-3 fronts who sub out a linebacker rather than a lineman, but they lose the edge versatility that is the 3-4’s strength.
The one lineman they did take was Carlos Davis, who checked in at 6’2”, 313 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, and posted a 4.82 40-yard dash time. A dual athlete who also lettered for four years in the shotput on Nebraska’s track and field team, he’s said to be more athlete than football player as he heads into the NFL.
“He’s 305, 308, could he play inside at nose, sure”, Colbert said. “He doesn’t have the great length that we had had in that schematic, but also, he can play as a rush defensive tackle like Javon did on the inside”.
“Base defense, I’m sure he will line up at the nose, and then in the sub-packages he’ll be an inside rusher”, he expanded. “Again, when you’re running 4.79 at that size and Coach mentioned he threw the shot and discus at Nebraska. They’re very athletic”.
The plural refers to Khalil Davis, Carlos’ twin brother, who was drafted in the sixth round. He was the one who weighs 308 pounds and ran a 4.75 40-yard dash at the Combine. He adds to the growing list of Steelers who currently have siblings in the league, up to at least four sets that I can think of off the top of my head—the Pounceys, the Watts, and the Edmundses being the others.