Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: DT Daniel McCullers
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Seen training with defensive line coach along with teammates.
This is a big season for Daniel McCullers, which isn’t something often said for a sixth-round pick headed into his seventh season. For the first time in his career, he has no impediments standing in his way in terms of securing a ‘starting’ job—insofar as nose tackle can be considered a starting position in today’s game.
When he was drafted, he was behind Steve McLendon. When McLendon signed elsewhere in free agency, the Steelers drafted Javon Hargrave in the third round, and he immediately leapfrogged McCullers in the starting lineup, relegating him to a backup role.
Now Hargrave is gone, and that haven’t replaced him with anybody of note. What stands in front of him is the best opportunity he has ever had, and probably ever will have, in his professional career. Sure, they drafted Carlos Davis, but a seventh-round rookie in a pandemic will have enough trouble just making the roster.
Since his rookie contract expired, we have seen some improvement from the big man, evidently taking his job more seriously and understanding what it means for his long-term future. This also happened to coincide with the hiring of Karl Dunbar as the new defensive line coach.
While there is no official football activity going on in the NFL, many Steelers defenders, particularly the front-line defenders—including edge rushers—have been seen training together, primarily with Brandon Jordan, who specializes in training offensive and defensive linemen.
McCullers has been a part of that group, which at least to me shows that he is taking things seriously. I really don’t think he is in much jeopardy of losing his job, but he understands that an opportunity exists for him to have the largest role that he has ever seen in his career, in which he could potentially see 300, perhaps even 400 snaps.