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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