2020 Offseason Questions: Will Daniel McCullers Be Steelers’ Primary NT?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

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: Is Daniel McCullers going to be the Steelers’ primary nose tackle in 2020?

I’m almost inclined to include an italicized ‘really’ before ‘going’ in the title question, because, really? After losing Javon Hargrave in free agency in what was nothing short of an inevitability due to salary cap and playing time restrictions, the Steelers by all indications appear to be set up with Daniel McCullers are their primary ‘man in the middle’ for the 2020 season.

After six years as a backup, sometimes even the sixth man, on the bench. And not because he’s gradually gotten better year-in and year-out to the point where he’s finally just reached a point of maturity where he’s ‘the guy’ now.

Sure, he’s better than he was a few years ago. He did seem to respond to Karl Dunbar’s methods more than those of John Mitchell. One does have to wonder, though, if Pittsburgh is really comfortable with him as the man who will log the most snaps at nose tackle this year—and if not, if they’re going to wait until training camp to find out.

This offseason, the only defensive tackle they’ve added to the roster is Carlos Davis, which has led some—like me—to speculate about the possibility of one of the backup ends moving inside, between second-year Isaiah Buggs, long-time veteran Tyson Alualu, and trade acquisition Chris Wormley. Even if one of them moves, however, I don’t think they would be the primary nose tackle.

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