Well, it’s official: the Steelers are now in “dire straits” when it comes to the Nose Tackle position. With Chris Hoke’s recent retirement, the soon to be 35 year old Casey Hampton needing ACL surgery, and Steve McLendon only tipping the scales at around 280 lbs., Pittsburgh is at the point where finding a 0-Technique, 3-4 Nose Tackle is of the highest importance.
Worries aside, this year’s Draft should provide Pittsburgh with a terrific opportunity to help to cure their ills at the center of their Defensive Line. So sit back, relax, and ready yourself for a short breakdown of six potential Nose Tackle prospects which the Steelers could be eying in this April’s Draft:
Dontari Poe appears to be the consensus #1 0-Technique, 3-4 NT of this season’s Draft class, and I would have a hard time arguing with that sentiment. Poe is an absolute “mountain of a man,” and has improved each and every season while playing at Memphis.
Poe, a Junior from Memphis, TN, established himself as a force to be reckoned with during his three year collegiate career, and consistently improved over the 30 games which he started from 2009-2011.
In 2009, Poe earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors and racked up 27 Tackles in 6 starts, 7 TFL, 3 FF, and 2.0 Sacks. Poe followed his effective Freshman campaign by accumulating 41 Tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.0 Sacks and earned Honorable All-Conference USA honors in 2010. Finally, this past season, Poe made 33 Tackles, 8 TFL, 1.0 Sack, had 3 PBU’s, 1 FF, and was named the Tigers’ Team Defensive MVP.
Poe’s biggest drawback may be his age, as he will only be 22 when the 2012 season starts and left school with a year of eligibility remaining. Dontari will likely face the same kind of extensive seasoning process as Ziggy Hood, but even though he may have left school after 3 seasons, he still started 2.5 of them, so that’s not a huge worry.
Hopefully, longtime D-Line Coach John Mitchell can help Poe to develop quickly, and Hampton can squeeze one more decent year out of himself so Poe could be playing some significant snaps by the end of the season if he is drafted by Pittsburgh.
I believe that inserting Poe into a Defensive Line consisting of DE’s Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward, could give Pittsburgh its “D-Line of the Future” in immediate the “Present.” And by 2013, the Steelers Front 3 Base-Set would be a young force to be reckoned with and could be tearing up the League and striking fear into the opposition. Maybe Poe will be the final building block, and you certainly can’t teach the kind of size and brute strength which Dontari possesses.
A couple of months ago, I wrote an article regarding Ta’amu which focused on him being a possible choice for the Steelers in Round 1 of this April’s Draft. His stock was arguably at its highest, and many had him as a 1st Round lock when the season started.
Ta’amu’s performance slipped just a tad in 2011 though (partly due to double-teams, partly due to being a non-factor in certain games), and Ta’amu is now believed to be a Round 2-3 pick by many in the scouting community who don’t have a 1st Round grade on him anymore.
Over a span of 4 seasons and 45 starts, Ta’amu put together a great career at Washington and was one of the many holdovers which transformed an 0-12 program as Freshman into a program that has appeared in back-to-back Bowl Games. And during the 2011 season, Alameda made 30 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, and 8 TFL’s in 12 games, and earned 2011 Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 honors (earned same accolade in 2010).
At 340+ lbs., Ta’amu, like Poe, is a space-eater and has displayed the ability to play 2-gaps with discipline and occupy an Offensive Line’s valuable time and resources. Much like most true 0-Technique NT’s, he relies heavily on his bull-rush to collapse the pocket and attack the QB if need be. If the Steelers are serious about shoring up their Run Defense, Ta’amu could help be the man in the middle to alleviate some of their issues.