At last week’s NFL meetings, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed a question about the club’s long-term plans at nose tackle by strictly looking at the present. NT Casey Hampton, who took a pay cut to return to the club and is coming off an ACL injury, “is going to be a part” of the 2012 plans, Tomlin said, according to the club.
Third-year pro Steve McLendon also looks to be a key contributor at the position. McLendon, Tomlin said, “proved that he is a capable backup a year ago, and in some instances a starter. He played a lot of football for us, so we are not in any way discouraged by his progress or what he might continue to evolve into.”
McLendon, 26, notched 13 tackles in 14 regular-season games a season ago. In his lone 2011 start at nose tackle, he recorded five tackles in a win at Arizona. He also saw significant playing time in the wild-card loss at Denver after Hampton left with the knee injury. In those games, McLendon showed some positive attributes. He showed an ability to find the ball and make plays even when blocked. What’s more, he moved fairly well. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, McLendon weighed closer to 320 pounds last season, the way we hear it, and a look at the tape showed him capable of handling the rigors of the NT position.
Still, it would not be surprising if the Steelers added a nose tackle in the draft. If needed, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward can also line up in the middle, but they are primarily defensive ends in the base 3-4 defense. Each saw time in the middle in passing situations last season.