On numerous occasions throughout the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have addressed the nose tackle position following the departure of Javon Hargrave and have more or less minimized its importance. At the same time, they have made it clear that the position itself has changed. The Casey Hampton days are over. You need to get after the passer if you want to sustain a ‘starting’ career there.
That’s not exactly Daniel McCullers, who prior to the draft was the only true nose tackle on the roster. Truth be told, that doesn’t fit the bill for Tyson Alualu, either, nor Chris Wormley. Isaiah Buggs would have the best chance of offering something in the passing game if moved to nose tackle.
That is, assuming rookie seventh-round pick Carlos Davis fails to step up. And that’s something he has no intention of doing. The Nebraska product plans to have a long career ahead of himself in the NFL, and he knows what will keep him around: taking down quarterbacks.
Speaking with reporters during a conference call earlier this month while the team was conducting its virtual rookie minicamp, he was asked a number of questions concerning his role with team and what coaches told him. He was also asked about what he brings to the table on passing downs.
“I am quick, I am getting better at pass rush”, he told them. “My speed and my weight, I am good at using it and using it on the football field. I just have to keep working on my rush and executing. Really just studying my opponents and what they do so I can have an advantage over them when we are ready to go”.
One thing the rookie does have is the athletic ability to pull it off. He has both speed and size. He has a fundamental understanding of how to use his hands and his arms to manipulate offensive linemen. He has the traits that you want at the position late in the draft, even if he didn’t have the college production you would like to see.
So it’s up to Karl Dunbar and company to try to get him to maximize his potential, because he certainly has that. It will be a lot more difficult to do while not being able to work with him one-on-on—not working in pads is especially hard on the linemen on both sides of the trenches—but for now, he can learn the nuances of the position in the classroom.
And one thing he already understands is that rushing the passer is going to be a big part of his job, should he have one this fall. Even if he ends up playing at nose tackle, he’s going to play in the nickel defense as well. Even McCullers has done that. So he won’t be just asked to play on running downs, no matter the circumstances.