Many were intrigued to see how much Alameda Ta’amu could contribute during his rookie season after he enjoyed a productive and successful career as a gap-clogging defensive tackle at the University of Washington.
After the Steelers got what was thought by many, including myself, to be a veritable steal in the form of Ta’amu in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft, the supposed heir apparent to Casey Hampton was nothing short of “ghost-like” during his rookie season. In fact, due to the play of “Big Snack” and his then-backup Steve McLendon, Ta’amu did not even play!
Ta’amu however managed to make a splash in the headlines last October, but not for his improvement on the field. Unfortunately, it was for all of the wrong reasons as Alameda left a trail of destruction in his wake after a drunken automobile chase-scene reminiscent of a bad episode of “COPS.” Luckily for the nose tackle, the sentence he received this spring was quite lenient, and it appeared that he would be back on track to compete for playing time this fall with Hampton out of town.
With a golden opportunity for a second-chance on the horizon, the defensive tackle instead proceeded to make another stupid mistake when he re-Tweeted a picture of himself with a bottle of whiskey only hours after he was sentenced! Although Ta’amu claimed the picture was old, that momentary lapse in judgment was downright ridiculous. One would figure that a guy on already “thin ice” would make a better choice, especially after such an uninspiring rookie campaign on the field.
Obviously unimpressed with Ta’amu’s behavior, Pittsburgh’s front office has been smart to bring in and develop competition for him. Last December, the team signed Hebron Fangupo to provide depth and to eventually challenge their 2012 fourth round pick this fall. While Steve McLendon is the starter, the backup reps will be up for grabs between Ta’amu and Fangupo over the next few weeks.
Ta’amu will not only have to compete with Fangupo during the coming months, but he could have to contend with Al Woods as well. Woods, as we all remember, took the second-team reps at nose tackle during OTA’s earlier this spring. Although Woods will likely be needed more for depth at defensive end this fall, he could solidify a roster spot if he can climb to number two on the Steelers’ depth chart at nose tackle.
As if the competition was not bad enough for Ta’amu, the defensive tackle is dealing with a hamstring injury and was placed on the active/PUP list yesterday. With McLendon firmly entrenched as the starter, the ever-important backup reps will be even more critical for Ta’amu. So the more time Ta’amu is hobbled, the less time he can battle Woods and Fangupo for a roster spot.
Not only will Ta’amu be in a heated battle for a backup job, his character issues have probably not endeared him to the coaching staff or his teammates. Thus, if he under-performs, cannot stay healthy, or Fangupo and/or Woods play well, he will be looking for a new job elsewhere once the 2013 regular season begins.
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