The Pittsburgh Steelers started the third and final day of the 2012 NFL draft by selecting Washington nose tackle Alameda Ta\’Amu with the 14th pick of the fourth round after trading up with the Washington Redskins. The Steelers gave up their original fourth and original 6th round picks to get him. The Steelers need a young nose tackle to start grooming and Ta\’Amu is a prototypical 3-4 beast that is effective in taking on the double team.
With more NFL teams converting to the 3-4 defensive alignment, finding a physical “plugger” to line up over center is a premium. While the Baltimore Ravens are beginning to reap the rewards of planting massive Terrence Cody at nose guard, Ta’amu could soon be the next “wide body” residing for some team over the middle of the line.
The “battle of the bulge” has played a major role in preventing the Husky defensive lineman from realizing his potential in the past, as he would generally play in the 360-pound range and has weighed as much as 390 pounds during his days with Washington. A change in his workout regimen and cutting a staple of his Samoan culture out of his diet – rice – has seen the senior perform in the 340-pound range last year.
That drop in weight resulted in Ta’amu showing surprising quickness off the snap and better stamina, playing well into 2011 games without needing his previously customary “breather.” He is a very physical presence in the middle of the field, but because of his big frame, he is not going to be a player that can simply squeeze into the backfield and has to rely on his bull rush skills to pressure the pocket.
Ta’amu is still developing an array of moves he will need to combat savvy veteran offensive linemen at the next level, where his impressive collegiate power could be negated when trying to split the gaps (has to work on rip and swim moves). Still, if asked to do what he does best – anchor, stack and shed – he can be very effective occupying multiple blockers to free up another teammate to make the play.
Ta’amu has seen the mental aspect of his game grow considerably the last two seasons. He would often rely upon his size and raw strength to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, but rather than over-pursue or rely on his bull rush to collapse the pocket, he is a more patient defender who is quick to take advantage when guards and centers vacate the hole on traps and pulls to generate the penetration needed or simply sit back and create a pile while anchoring strongly vs. the opponent’s attempts to widen the rush lanes.
At Ranier Beach High School, Ta’amu was a three-sport standout, competing in basketball, football and track. On the gridiron, he was rated the state of Washington’s third-best overall prospect and the nation’s seventh-best offensive guard (a position he could be converted back to at the NFL level) by Scout.com. Rivals.com regarded him as the state’s fourth-best recruit and the 15th-ranked guard in the prep ranks.
As a sophomore, Ta’amu was named the Metro League Sound Division Lineman of the Year and first-team all-league on both the offensive and defensive lines, helping the Vikings to a berth in the state playoffs. In 2006, the junior received All-State Class 3A first-team accolades on offense and honorable mention on defense, where he posted eight sacks. That year, he also placed third in the shot-put at the state finals and was the Metro League champion in that event.
As a senior, the two-time All-State selection added Parade All-American recognition and was honored as the Metro League\’s Sound Division Player of the Year and Lineman of the Year, an award he won three times during his prep career. In 2007, he recorded 58 tackles with ten sacks and would conclude his career by playing in the Offense-Defense All-America Game in the Orange Bowl in Miami.
During his high school senior season, Ta’amu suffered a broken bone in his foot and that injury would prevent him from working on conditioning before he arrived at the University of Washington in 2008. He was slow to round into shape, but eventually did, starting the team’s final five games at left defensive tackle. In twelve contests, he was credited with 21 tackles (9 solos).
Dropping close to forty pounds from his frame before 2009 fall camp began, Ta’amu seized the left tackle position with a solid showing in August. He went on to start eleven games, delivering 19 tackles with 4.5 stops for loss. From his 350-pound playing weight as a sophomore, he continued to slim down, playing at 330 in 2010. He was named the team’s Lineman of the Year and received All-Pac 10 Conference honorable mention, as he made a career-high 39 tackles (21 solos) with five stops coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Ta’amu’s dedicated work ethic was noticed by the coaching staff during 2011 spring camp. By the time he returned to school for the fall semester, he was named team captain. He started all thirteen games, again receiving All-Pac 12 Conference honorable mention. The two-time team Defensive Lineman of the Year delivered 30 tackles, posting career-highs with 3.5 sacks and seven stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Ta’amu started 42-of-50 games at left defensive tackle for Washington, as he produced 109 tackles (57 solos) with 7.5 sacks for minus 48 yards, 216.5 stops for losses totaling 68 yards and one quarterback pressure…Advanced a fumble recovery 14 yards and deflected one pass.
Ta’amu was named All-Pac 12 Conference honorable mention by the league’s coaches…
Started all thirteen games at left defensive tackle, recording 30 tackles (15 solos), as his 3.5 sacks for minus 19 yards and seven stops for losses of 30 yards were both career-highs…Also posted a quarterback pressure…Served as team captain…Recipient of the L. Wait Rising Defensive Lineman of the Year Award at the team\’s postseason banquet.
2011 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
Had a good game vs. Washington State, totaling four tackles, two and a half for loss and two sacks…Posted five tackles, one and a half for loss and half a sack in the win over Colorado…Made two tackles for loss and a sack vs. Hawaii…Produced five tackles vs. Eastern Washington, despite playing that game with a cast that protected a broken bone in his hand…Delivered two tackles in the Alamo Bowl vs. Baylor.
The junior was selected All-Pac 10 Conference honorable mention by the league’s coaches, as the full-time starter at left defensive tackle recorded a career-high 39 tackles (21 solos) with 1.5 sacks for minus 13 yards and five stops for losses of 19 yards…Had one pass deflection and a fumble recovery…Named the team’s Defensive Lineman of the Year…Collected a season-high seven tackles at Oregon, then matched that the following weekend vs. UCLA, when he also had one sack…Added two tackles and a sack in the Apple Cup vs. Washington State…Posted five stops at California and two tackles with a stop for a loss at Arizona…Registered four tackles each at Southern California and vs. Arizona State…Delivered a terrific game in the Holiday Bowl vs. Nebraska, when he had a 10-yard sack and also a 14-yard fumble return early in the game.
Ta’amu started all but the Washington State game, appearing in eleven contests…Was in on 19 tackles (12 solos), coming up with 2.5 sacks and 4.5 stops for losses of 19 yards.
Played in all twelve games during his true freshman season, starting the final five contests, as he recorded 21 tackles (9 solos).
2007 Season…Suffered a hairline fracture of the fourth metatarsal (foot) during his senior season in high school.
2011 Season…Broke a bone in his hand in August camp, playing with a cast on it in the season opener vs. Eastern Washington.
5.30 in the 40-yard dash…1.82 10-yard dash…3.08 20-yard dash…4.72 20-yard shuttle…
7.52 three-cone drill…26-inch vertical jump…8’7” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 35 times…32-inch arm length…9 ¾-inch hands…78 1/8-inch wingspan…13 Wonderlic score.
Ta’Amu attended Ranier Beach (Wash.) High School, competing in basketball, football and track…Rated the state of Washington’s third-best overall prospect and the nation’s seventh-best offensive guard (a position he could be converted back to at the NFL level) by Scout.com…Rivals.com regarded him as the state’s fourth-best recruit and the 15th-ranked guard in the prep ranks…As a sophomore, Ta’amu was named the Metro League Sound Division Lineman of the Year and first-team all-league on both the offensive and defensive lines, helping the Vikings to a berth in the state playoffs…In 2006, the junior received All-State Class 3A first-team accolades on offense and honorable mention on defense, where he posted eight sacks…That year, he also placed third in the shot-put at the state finals and was the Metro League champion in that event…As a senior, the two-time All-State selection added Parade All-American recognition and was honored as the Metro League\’s Sound Division Player of the Year and Lineman of the Year, an award he won three times during his prep career…In 2007, he recorded 58 tackles with ten sacks and would conclude his career by playing in the Offense-Defense All-America Game in the Orange Bowl in Miami.
General Studies major…Born 8/23/90 in Kent, Washington.