Now matter how well or poor people grade and rate the Pittsburgh Steelers draft year after year, the organization seems to find at least one gem. Lately that appears to happen in the later rounds rather than the earlier rounds where higher caliber players can be found.
Since the 2010 draft, the Steelers seem to find one player in the latter rounds who step up early on during their rookie contract period and make an impact on the roster. Vince Williams (2013, 6th rd.), Kelvin Beachum (2012, 7th rd.), Cortez Allen (2011, 4th rd.), and Antonio Brown (2010, 6th rd.) have all impacted this roster for the better rather early in their careers. Except for Williams (and only because it is too early to tell), the others have made lasting impressions that have made them rather essential members on this roster. So, if the trend continues, who is the Steelers late round gem for 2014?
I’m going to go with 6th Round pick Daniel McCullers. This mountain of a man has the size and the drive to become the next great nose tackle for the Steelers 3-4 defense. This kid is big. Really. Big. He even makes former Casey Hampton look a bit on the ‘small’ side. While McCullers outweighs ‘Big Snack’ by roughly 25 lbs., he is also six inches taller. That could prove a problem because it’s been reported that McCullers has a tendency to stand up high on his blocks making even The Mountain too easy to move.
That’s just a matter of technique, and I think through coaching and reps, McCullers can learn to stay lower on his blocks and drive back centers and guards. If he can take that kind of command during camp, he certainly will have a starting roll in 2014. The Steelers don’t have many options at NT outside of McCullers to begin with. McLendon is perhaps only most effective as passing down option NT. He is just too small situationally for earlier downs, and Steeler Nation witnessed that too much last season. This means that McCullers should see a lot of time on the field during OTA’s and camp.
If McCullers can show dominance early in the season, more offenses will be forced to commit more linemen to keep The Mountain at bay. In turn that woud free up the lanes in the middle of the field for ILB’s Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Ryan Shazier, and Sean Spence to attack the rush or the quarterback. The OLB’s could also run stunts up the middle giving them access to freed lanes caused by McCullers.
If the Steelers linebackers have more line of scrimmage tackles or more tackles for losses in both the run game and QB sacks and McCullers is on the field, you can most certainly attribute that marked success on McCullers being on the field and doing an excellent job at NT.
And that’s what makes him such a gem for 2014.