Starter: Steve McLendon
Like I stated in the introduction, the Steelers recently signed Steve McLendon to a three-year deal, sealing Hampton’s fate. This sent the message to every one (including Casey Hampton) that they saw Steve McLendon as their future at the nose tackle position. McLendon has been in the shadow of Casey Hampton for the past few seasons and is finally ready to break out. The Steelers gave McLendon more playing time last year, and he often showed he was capable of taking over in the future. In the preseason last summer, McLendon came out and dominated, making it look like he would be the starter at nose tackle in Denver week 1. Casey Hampton was still given the starting job, but McLendon showed a lot of upside. Even thought Steve is not seen as your typical 3-4 nose tackle, he seemed very capable at doing what is required for his role on the defense. At 6-5, 330, McLendon is a monster on the football field. He has enough speed to rush the passer, but he can also take the double team, freeing up the middle linebackers.
Behind him, you have Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo. While these two young nose tackles will be asked to rotate with McLendon, neither is anywhere close to starting.
Finding the young defensive linemen out of Troy, undrafted, has been quite impressive. The Steelers defensive line coach has a lot of confidence in Steve McLendon as he was quoted saying last offseason
Everybody wants to discard McLendon, let me tell you this, hold your opinion until the season is over.
Casey Hampton has been a monster in the middle of the Steelers defense for the last decade, but it is time for him to pass the torch on to Steve McLendon.