The Steelers lost nose tackle Javon Hargrave to free agency. They have not yet replaced him.
Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com looks at the short-term future of the position in Pittsburgh, where there’s no clear candidate to replace Hargrave. Indeed, coach Mike Tomlin didn’t have a specific answer when asked to name Hargrave’s replacement.
“Good question,” Tomlin said.
Kaboly interprets the bulk of Tomlin’s remarks as meaning either that the Steelers won’t be using a nose tackle much this year, or that they’ll continue to look to add to the group as the offseason continues to unfold, whether through the waiver wire or in trade. For now, the in-house candidates are Dan McCullers and possibly Tyson Alualu.
“We will sort those guys out and allow those guys to establish themselves within the position,” Tomlin said. “We aren’t opposed to adding at the position if come across some capable men or a capable man between now and then. We are comfortable where we are.”
One reality as it relates to the traditional nose tackle is that teams that use a 3-4 base defense aren’t really in that base defense very often, with an outside linebacker becoming essentially the fourth man of a 4-3 front and the nose tackle no longer being a classic 3-4 nose tackle.
“A traditional 3-4 nose tackle, again, I don’t want to say it’s dying, but it’s less and less of base defense,” G.M. Kevin Colbert said, via Kaboly. “When you’re in a defense 75 percent of the time, different sub-packages, I don’t know if anyone has a base defense even though you do say you’re a 3-4.”
The Steelers have had a base 3-4 defense for decades, and that hasn’t changed even though Tomlin arrived in 2007 as an expert in the 4-3, Tampa Two defense. Maybe, in a subtle way, the de-emphasis on the nose tackle is a signal of shift toward a base defense that looks more like a 4-3 than a 3-4.