The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
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: Will Daniel McCullers be the Steelers’ primary nose tackle this season after all?
After the Steelers did almost nothing to address the nose tackle position this offseason—short of using a seventh-round pick on a defensive tackle in Carlos Davis who is looking unlikely to make the 53-man roster—it was unclear what the team’s plans would be.
Several weeks ago, Mike Tomlin told reporters that Tyson Alualu would be getting the first snaps at nose tackle in training camp. Many interpreted that as implying that he was in the driver’s seat with respect to putting himself in the position to log the team’s most snaps at nose tackle in 2020.
Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar had an interesting response to a question earlier this week, however. Basically, he said that the Steelers were looking to push McCullers and using Alualu as the best candidate to do that, saying that they weren’t just going to give the job away. The implication was almost that they wanted to give McCullers the structure to make him ‘earn’ the job.
Whether or not that’s the case, it’s clear at this point that either Alualu or McCullers will be the Steelers’ primary nose tackle this year. The question is, which one of them? Will there even be a fixed ‘starter’ or will it depend upon matchups and that week’s work of practice? I’m beginning to believe it may end up being the latter—and that they really wouldn’t be worse off for it.