Louis Nix III already has and will continue to be linked by many pundits to the nose tackle-needy Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the next four months. Thus, it did not surprise me that Mel Kiper, Jr. of ESPN.com mocked the former Notre Dame nose tackle to the Steelers in the first round of his first 2014 NFL Mock Draft.
I for one would not necessarily be upset if the Steelers used their first round pick on a nose tackle. Pittsburgh’s run defense sagged last season, and the absence of veteran Casey Hampton was a significant reason behind their issues.
While other factors like the use of rookie and inexperienced inside linebackers also played a part in the team’s problems to stop the run, Pittsburgh’s defense (2013: 21st in total rushing yards and yards per carry) could stand to use a massive (6’3″ 340 lbs.) gap-clogger with underrated athleticism as their zero-technique.
Best of all, the addition of Nix III would allow the team’s current starter at nose tackle, the versatile Steve McLendon, to shift to one of the defensive end spots in the event that Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood or Al Woods depart during free agency.
Of course, I would still have some reservations about selecting a nose tackle in the first round if I was within the Steelers’ organization.
Remember, the 2013 campaign marked the first season that McLendon logged any sort of significant snaps (only 338 total) as the team’s starting nose tackle. Stuck behind Hampton for the first three years of his professional career, McLendon had only started one regular season game from 2010-2012. Call me crazy, but I would have been shocked if there was little to no drop-off from the play at nose tackle after McLendon assumed Hampton’s role last year.
In my humble opinion, the rebuilding Steelers should be drafting the best player available who has the ability to make an impact as early as possible with their first round pick. If some of you readers are firmly entrenched on the Nose Tackle in Round One bandwagon however, then that is fantastic. I just hope that you will consider some of the following questions over the coming months:
- Do any of you really believe that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau would play a rookie at the most important position along his defensive line?
- Moreover, would a player like Nix III would be an enormous upgrade over McLendon in the immediate future?
- Since Nix III does not offer much in the pass rushing department, how much of an impact would the nose tackle make when the Steelers move to nickel and dime personnel packages?
- Should Pittsburgh’s brass ignore a potentially game-breaking tight end or wide receiver at the expense of a two-down player in the first round?
- Furthermore, would it be wise to pass on an offensive weapon for Ben Roethlisberger in favor of a guy who might not see any playing time as a rookie regardless of how talented he is?
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