Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers Might Be Wise to Avoid a Nose Tackle in Round One


I am not going to sit here and say that the Pittsburgh Steelers do not need to employ a defense-heavy draft strategy this May. On the contrary, I would love to see Pittsburgh’s coaching staff and scouts try to fill the holes which exist at almost every positional unit on that side of the ball in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Many are presently clamoring for the Steelers’ brass to take a defensive player in the first round, and a sizable amount of those people are keen on the franchise selecting a nose tackle with the 15th overall pick.

My desire to see the defense fixed aside, I would definitely be uneasy if Pittsburgh chose any defensive player in the first round. Furthermore, what worries me the most about the Steelers potentially taking a nose tackle with their first round pick revolves around how much the youngster would actually play and contribute.

As far as a nose tackle playing as a rookie is concerned, I have a hard time believing that they would see the field at all during his first or even second season. Defensive linemen rarely play or contribute on the defensive side of the ball early in their careers under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

Don’t believe me? Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward are two recent and prime examples of this ideology.

Remember, Hood only saw extensive action in his second and third years due to season-ending injuries sustained by Aaron Smith. Although Cameron Heyward might have established himself as one of the better five-techniques this fall for Pittsburgh, he was forced to rot on the pine for the first two years of his professional career.

While Steve McLendon and Al Woods are not a fantastic duo, I have a hard time believing that LeBeau would simply hand playing time to any inexperienced nose tackle over either of them once the regular season started if the Heyward and Hood examples are any indication.

Even if a rookie was allowed to suit up and contribute on the defensive side of the ball early in his career, one has to wonder how much playing time he would even see in today’s pass-happy NFL.

Teams like New England, Green Bay, New Orleans, etc. have all enjoyed measures of success against LeBeau coached defenses when they have spread them out and thin on the field. With extra receivers in the game, Pittsburgh’s defense was forced into their sub-package sets and extra defensive backs were eventually inserted as personnel.

Instead of running the ball into the teeth of a Casey Hampton-led front, those offenses passed to set up the run and forced the non-pocket collapsing nose tackle off of the field. Although someone like Notre Dame’s nose tackle Louis Nix III has some pass-rushing moves at his disposal, he hardly projects as a consistent pocket collapsing force at the professional level.

Plus, if teams go into hurry-up or no-huddle mode, how effective would the gargantuan nose tackle be at generating pressure if he is stuck on the field for extended amounts of time?


Final Thoughts

As many of you can tell by now, I am not on the ‘nose tackle in round one’ bandwagon for this May’s draft. This is not to say that I do not believe the Steelers’ brass should ignore the position altogether. It simply means that this team is better off finding a mid-late round prospect who can be developed and coached up by one of the best in the business in the form of Mitchell.

Selecting a player in round one who would likely have no immediate impact and potentially a minimal impact down the road is an extremely risky venture. What makes the move itself an even bigger gamble is when one considers the type of talent at the tight end and wide receiver positions which could be available to the Steelers at number 15 overall.

I certainly would not pass on a playmaker like Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Mike Evans for a guy who might see less than 100 snaps during his rookie campaign. Moreover, in today’s pass-first NFL, passing up prospects like the ones I mentioned above for a nose tackle would be nothing short of ridiculous for a rebuilding team like Pittsburgh that must add a tall, physically imposing force to their passing attack.







Stats & Contract Info. Provided By: ESPN.comSteelers.comSpotrac and Pro Football Reference


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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Austin Seferian-Jenkins Eric Ebron Jace Amaro Louis Nix III Mike Evans Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Jose Roman

    i agree with you why waste a pick if you arent going to play him. a t.e. or evans at w/r would be great. after all this nfl is not like the one the original steel curtain played in but it would be nice if tomlin took over the defense and we play the tampa 2 which is the original steel curtain as seen by coach dungy. now that would be awsome to see.

  • lkw

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say NT is the easiest position on the defense to learn assignment wise. Plus the Dt’s that went early last yr were instant stars and made huge impacts for their teams. So if there is someone of that caliber available (which I’m not sure there is) I think that would have the potential to radically improve the defense. Having said that I’m not opposed to giving Ben another weapon. I was begging them to draft eifert last yr. Whoever they draft I agree they better get some immediate contributions from them. So basically if you go NT rd 1 they better be real special. Otherwise wr/te is the way to go.

  • Mark

    I dont understand why LeBeau can’t or won’t play the new guys until their 3rd or 4th year in. Then he keeps the veterans, who are past their prime in there, while letting the rookies rot on the bench. Does he not trust them? I dont understand his logic. I think by their 2nd year, the new guys should be starting, period. Perfect example was not sitting Ryan Clark, who clearly lost a step and putting in Shamarko Thomas- even just occasionally. The young guys are the future, the vets are the past. Let the young guys gain some experience.

  • Carl Eagan

    Of course after reading this article and the comments I’m guessing that the opinions of guys like Mitchel, Butler and Lake have no bearing. Obviously the position coaches don’t work with their people and can’t see who is performing how they want them too. It’s astounding that you pseudo experts actually believe that LeBeau makes all the personnel decisions by himself. If he is thats just another reason to fire Tomlin but since Mikey claims to be involved in every aspect of the game it could be just like in Minnesota he decided to lean on the veterans who couldn’t get the job done. Using Hood and Heywood is a bad example. Hood backed up Smith and Kiesel his first year now why would anyone put a rookie out there when those 2 are on the field? Of course hindsight is 20-20 but who could see that Smith would eventually miss the next 2 seasons before retiring. Heywood until this year simply couldn’t beat out Hood. Hood played ok he just wasn’t Smith but there aren’t that many players who ever played as well as Smith. Now for a few games and I hope it continues Heywood is playing almost at Smiths level. For the past 6 years we have been seeing more and more of Tomlin’s version of the Tampa 2 and just like when the idiot was in Minnesota the pass defense sucked.

    • Dom DiTolla

      It’s amazing how everyone except Tomlin can be absolved of blame according to you. On the contrary, is LeBeau and his staff who run the defense. Also, there’s nobody on Pittsburgh’s roster with the last name “Heywood.” Can you tell me who it is so I can double-check my program?

  • Redd Mahoney

    Do you think that the Steelers would be better suited trying to fill most of their needs through the draft or through free agency ( not normally the Steelers way) in spite of the salary cap?

  • Thumper833

    So 3-4 nose tackles are defunct now? I don’t think so. A guy getting push up the middle and shedding blocks in the run game is a 3 down player all day long. ( I don’t think Nix is that guy though)
    As far as D rookies seeing the field sooner, I think that day has arrived. In the past, our vets have been just plain better. Not so much any more.
    @reddmahoney:disqus forget free agency. This team is in cap difficulty for the next two seasons. We will ahve a hard time just signing our own FAs.

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