Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon played in the shadows of Casey Hampton last year. The 2013 NFL season could be a very different story, as he has the nose tackle position in Dick LeBeau‘s 3-4 defense all to himself. When in the game, McLendon showed flashes of the speed, nasty attitude and lateral quickness that is desired for a nose tackle. A big plus, however, is his pass rushing ability which will allow him to stay on the field on third downs if the coaching staff desires.
While he only recorded two sacks last year, believe it or not, that’s pretty good given he’s a nose tackle, whose primary job is to take on double-teams while pushing the pocket to force the quarterback backward. His ability to stop the run was really on display in the preseason this year. There were multiple plays throughout the preseason where he took on a double-teams but got penetration which forced the ball carrier to choose a different path to the hole than normal. In the end, it resulted in either getting back to the line of scrimmage or a loss. There were also plays where he again took on a double-team, and got penetration, but made the tackle himself.
Last year, as the season went on, there were fans that wanted McLendon to start instead of Hampton.
The nose tackle is arguably the most important position in any 3-4 defense. It’s only a matter of time before he shows he’s here to stay, and more importantly, help revive the pass-rush by pushing the quarterback back in the pocket and allowing the outside linebackers and ends to get up-field to force pressure and get some sacks. We all know sacks were very hard to come by last year.
D.J. Vasil is a Pittsburgh Steelers writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DJV89. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.