2023 NFL Draft

Steelers Depot Draft Discussion V: The Value of a Premium Nose Tackle

This is the fifth in a 10-part series that concludes on April 26, the day before the 2023 NFL Draft starts. Each day Depot staff members offer their spin on a Steelers-related draft question.

A crystal ball tells you that a nose tackle in the draft (and, yes, it does reveal the player) will have a similar impact as Casey Hampton in his 12 seasons with the Steelers though may not be as dominant “Big Snack.” Would you take that player at #17 overall?

Dave Bryan: Not this year, no. Based on this year’s draft class study, I personally don’t think a player that would come close to measuring up to Casey Hampton even exists, especially when it comes to first-round worthiness. What made Hampton such a force during his playing days was his ability to two-gap and be an immovable force in the center of the Steelers defensive line. This allowed the inside linebackers to stay clean and make plays. In today’s NFL game, while two-gapping does still exist, there’s less of it happening overall. There’s more one-gapping and hole-filling by the off-the-ball linebackers. With the NFL game being cyclical, however, perhaps we will see a shift back to run-heavy offenses, complete with a steady use of fullbacks, where two-gapping nose tackles are a lot more valuable. For now, I would pass on a Hampton-type player at 17 overall this year.

Josh Carney: Without a doubt, yes. While the game has changed a bit from the old-school, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality into the more spread out, high-flying league we see today, there’s still great value in a run-stopping nose tackle. Things are cyclical in the NFL, and the running game is coming back en vogue. Even if the nose tackle has less positional value than others, it’s still an important one in Pittsburgh.

Don’t forget that Casey Hampton was one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen throughout his career. He was an integral piece on those great Steelers teams in the mid-2000s. If I am getting that type of player that Hampton was at No. 17, sign me up, especially since that player is going to be a force late in the season and into the playoffs, when there’s more of an emphasis on running the football and stopping the run in Pittsburgh.

Joe Clark: Yes, 100%. The way Pittsburgh plays defense, you need a strong nose tackle. Not many guys are going to be able to give you what Hampton did as a dominant presence in the middle of the defense for years. If you’re getting a guy who offers any sort of similar impact you jump on that player at No. 17. Even if the pass-rush juice isn’t there in this hypothetical player, if he can stop the run similarly to Hampton you have to take him and dare the Ravens and Bengals and Browns to try to run up the middle against you.

Alex Kozora: Heck yes. The draft is art not science and it’s late-era Picasso where you really can’t tell what you’re looking at. So if I can get a guarantee of a right below Big Snack, let’s call him “Small Snack,” I’m in. Even knowing it’s a nose tackle and the positional value isn’t as strong as other places. A good nose tackle is better than a bad offensive tackle. It’s the AFC North. When it’s December, the wind is whipping, there’s three inches of snow on the ground, and you’re facing Baltimore in Week 17 with playoffs on the line, you better stop the run. You better have a nose tackle.

Matthew Marczi: Because the question says the player would have a similar impact to Casey Hampton and not that he would be a similar player, my answer has to be yes. The player in question today wouldn’t look like Casey Hampton because he would spend half of his time on the sideline but would have to offer some impact as a pass rusher as well. One wonders if the Steelers didn’t already have this player, or something close to it, in the $20-million-dollar man, Javon Hargrave. And it doesn’t hurt to have an elite run-stopper, anyway.

Thank you for reading and please drop your answer to the question below.

Previous Depot draft discussions:

Two draft scenarios

The Steelers and RBs

Best draft pick in Steelers history

Buyer beware for Steelers

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