Steelers Film Room: Can Steve McLendon Be a Three-Down Nose Tackle?

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Part 2: Rushing the Passer

Nine. The few sacks that Casey Hampton has had over the course of his 12 year career. This statistic is quite sad when you compare it to other defensive tackles. If you think about it though, it wasn’t really Hampton’s job to sack the quarterback. His success should be measured by how many sacks the linebackers had around him through his 12 year career. As a nose tackle in the 3-4 defense, it is his job to take up blockers to free up pass rushers.

Already in Steve McLendon’s short career, he has flashed the ability to rush the passer. During the preseason leading up to last season, McLendon was a dominant force. As shown in the picture on page 1, he got after the quarterback several times. Not only can Steve McLendon take up two blockers like Hampton could, he can also get after the passer himself. His quickness, strength and intelligence is a unique combination to find at his position, making him a very scary player on passing downs. Below I have analyzed a sack that he split with Brett Keisel against the Bengals in Week 16:

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

Early on in the game, Steve McLendon lines head-up with the Bengals center. McLendon’s goal is to basically drive the center all the way back into Andy Dalton, using nothing fancy, just a straight up bull-rush.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

Right out of the get go, McLendon uses his strength to push back the center, closing the gap between him and the quarterback. Within seconds, McLendon is already 2 yards up the field.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

At this point, McLendon is literally a yard away from Dalton. He has pushed the center back so fast, to the point where center is hanging on for dear life, trying to keep McLendon off of his quarterback. The center tries to recover, but with no success. McLendon is just too strong for the center to handle.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

Dalton sees McLendon, so he tries to move out-of-the-way. The entire time, McLendon has been able to control the center by keeping his arms extended. By keeping his arms extended, McLendon is now able to throw the center to the side and sack the quarterback.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

The pocket has collapsed, and McLendon, along with Brett Keisel, have swallowed up Andy Dalton. McLendon used his hips and arms to drive his man straight to the quarterback, ending with a sack for McLendon.

Extra Notes:

With McLendon getting through, it creates huge problems for the offense because in pass protection, the center is whats called the “tip of the arrow.” The center is vital in standing his ground because if someone gets by, they have a direct shot at the quarterback. With McLendon having a direct shot at Dalton, the center was unable to stop him due to his superb technique and overall strength. If McLendon can continue to wreak havoc in opponents back fields on passing downs, it will become harder and harder for opponents to move the ball on already the number one pass defense in the league.

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Tags: Casey Hampton Pittsburgh Steelers Steve McLendon

  • Dom DiTolla

    Solid post once again, Nick. I really like when you do the picture & still-photos of film breakdowns.

    I also have high hopes for McLendon this fall. Seems like he is geeked up to finally play full-time, and he has received nothing but high praise from Mitchell & Big Snack while he has developed over the last few seasons.

  • Marc Thomas

    sorry, but this post sucks. first of all, you’re a full yard off on the line of scrimmage. mclendon is not “2-3 yards up the field” as you put, but rather at the line of scrimmage and barely engaging the center (mangold) at that point in your post. finally, sanchez blew the call by not audibling to run to the other side. before the play even starts it’s clear the steelers have overloading the one side, yet the jets run right into it. easy play for the steelers.
    if sanchez audibles to the other side, the center and right guard combo block mclendon (easily because of how he is lined up) with mangold sliding up field to seal off timmons which leaves 3 blockers on 3 steelers and greene picking his hole.

    • Nick Kelly

      Interesting take, but I’m not sure what your definition of “overloaded” is, but from the way I count, on the left side, you have Woodley and Hood, and on the right side you have Carter at OLB and Heyward at DE, with Timmons lined up on the right guard and Foote lined up on the left guard. The only difference is, Steve McLendon is slightly shaded to the left side of the center. If you want to talk about overloaded, the JETS have an extra man on both sides. The reason the Jets had a three yard loss is not because it was an “easy play” for the Steelers. It was anything but easy for the Steelers. The only reason it worked for the Steelers was because of the strength and athleticism of McLendon, as well as his ability to take the double team. Mangold is expected to make that block, and McLendon is lined up there on purpose because the tight end is on that side. Thanks for stating your opinion but I stand by my analysis, and I suggest you look more closely at the film before you decide to comment next time.

      • Marc Thomas

        Not sure what you are looking at. Mclendon is almost lined up over the guard and his stance is such that Mangold’s reach block is nearly impossible. What double team? Mclendon is not engaged by the guard until they are outside the opposite hash marks. Actually, the guard isn’t even looking at him until he realizes he doesn’t have anyone to block! By the way, nice to see Hood get stood-up by a TE, bum. The real succes here is Woodley holding the edge and forcing the RB to look elsewhere, Timmons had a “lay-up” for a tackle. Like I said before, Sanchez blew it by not audibling the run play to the other side. Mclendon would be an easy combo block because of how he is lined up and Mangold could then slide up field to seal off Timmons. That leaves a hat-on-a-hat for the rest of the Jet’s blockers and the RB would have room to run.

        • Nick Kelly

          Do you watch the Steelers defense? The nose is always shaded to one side of the center. Not sure why you think he is lined up over the guard. And you say that Mangold’s reach block is near impossible, thats why McLendon is lined up like that. It’s very difficult to block. Also the guard did have someone to block, McLendon, because it is his responsibility to take any one in his zone, hence the term zone blocking. Say Sanchez did audible to the other side, it wouldn’t have made a difference because the Steelers defense would know what would be going on. In that case, McLendon would have angled on the other side. It’s not as simple as you make it sound to just “audible to the other side.” You can’t argue with the fact that McLendon forced the double team because he ended up having to be blocked by two blockers, freeing up Timmons. While you may think its a given Timmons tackled him, no tackle is ever a given. I can respect where you are coming from, but you make some of these things such as easily switching to the other side, or that Timmons making the tackle was a given. Thanks for commenting!

          • Marc Thomas

            Clearly, you do not pay attention to what is written in my posts or illustrated in your still shots. You are incorrectly repeating what I have said, your line of scrimmage is wrong, your red blocking arrows are wrong, you appear to be ignoring what the players are actually doing in the play, your complete diagnosis of the play is wrong. This play was doomed from the start because of the Steeler’s alignment and basic execution. But, for some reason, you are trying to prop up Mclendon. I don’t know why, maybe he’s your favorite player or something, but he’s an average NT. Do you want to know why – because old, broken down Casey Hampton started over him, that’s why. I love Hampton, one of the best ever in my opinion, but he was at the end of his rope last season and Mclendon still couldn’t win the job. I hope Mclendon comes out and plays well this year, but he’s no stud, that’s for sure.