New nose tackle Breiden Fehoko is both Pittsburgh’s largest and smallest addition via free agency this offseason, short of perhaps Nate Herbig. Signed to just a one-year minimum deal, he claims to be 320 pounds “on a good day”, as in a ‘light’ day, citing a wildly fluctuating weight stemming from his Polynesian background.
But that’s fine by him, because he knows who he is not only as a person but as a football player, and he’s come to embrace what he has to offer. “I’m made here to sit my big ass in the middle of a defense and make sure everybody else eats”, he told Kevin Adams and Jersey Jerry on the Steel Here podcast, “and I’ve learned to understand that and grow in that role”.
A college free agent out of LSU in 2020, Fehoko spent the first three years of his career with the Los Angeles Chargers, but they opted not to re-sign him this year. That included passing on the opportunity to tender him as a restricted free agent. Now he just wants to be an asset in Pittsburgh with Cameron Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, and company.
“I’m excited to get next to him. I’m excited to get next to Larry O. I’m excited to get next to Montravius [Adams] and be able to take a lot off their plate in the way that they can just go and play football”, he said. “I take a lot of pride in doing dirty work”.
Those are the sorts of players the defense has needed for a while, particularly right up the middle. They lacked that not only at the nose tackle position but also at linebacker. Now they have Fehoko and Elandon Roberts helping make up that interior triangle.
And the new lineman takes especial pride in providing others the opportunity to get the glory. He knows he’s not an Aaron Donald-style defensive lineman, so he wants to use the gifts that he has to bring to the table to help his teammates flash.
“I always tell them, ‘If you want to go take a freestyle and you want to go, go, I got your back. You want to take that B gap I’ll cover for you’”, he told his hosts. “That’s just my style of play. I don’t want to be this flashy guy and this and this, because that’s not how I play”.
While you need top-end talent to make it far in the NFL today, the best teams in the league have those gritty players who love to do the dirty work because they understand how important it is to the greater cause even if it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Fehoko is eager to show that he is that new guy in the middle for this Steelers defensive line. It all sounds good in April, but we will learn a lot more about how this is all going to work out starting in September.
One would presume that Montravius Adams will still see the bulk of the playing time at nose tackle in 2023, though that may not be a guarantee. At least not in running situations. The Stelers may be more specialized in their personnel usage this year if they believe Fehoko is that much more of a run stopper.