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: NT Daniel McCullers
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Mike Tomlin said that he was leaning on veteran experience for his first reps in training camp, but McCullers has more experience at nose tackle and on the roster than does Tyson Alualu.
I don’t know how to take Tomlin’s statement that Alualu will take the first reps at nose tackle as anything less than a criticism of McCullers, who has been here for six years, playing nose tackle, yet he said he’s leaning on Alualu as a veteran.
By the same token, Stefen Wisniewski is more veteran than Matt Feiler, with four times as many starts, yet Feiler is taking the first reps at guard. Granted, Alualu has been in the Steelers’ system for three years already, while Wisniewski is new to it, but at least Feiler has played guard. Alualu hasn’t played nose tackle, not traditionally.
This has to be McCullers’ last chance to land a significant role in the defense as the primary nose tackle. When he came in, he was behind Steve McLendon, and sometimes was a healthy scratch unless there was an injury. When McLendon left, Javon Hargrave as a rookie immediately started over him, and again, at times, he was a healthy scratch.
Now that Hargrave is gone, the Steelers haven’t brought in any heavy hitters. They only used a seventh-round pick on the position in drafting Carlos Davis, so seems more likely to be ticketed for the practice squad as a rookie.
Alualu is a respected veteran whose strength is his run defense. Perhaps he can play the nose tackle position well. But that doesn’t change the fact that this speaks unfavorably about McCullers, who has not accomplished a great deal in the 600-odd snaps that he has played in his career.