45 More Reasons To Like Steve McLendon

By Jeremy Hritz

There was no shortage of buzz surrounding nose tackle Steve McLendon during the first week of organized team activities. McLendon, who was named the MVP in three different sports during his senior year at Carroll High School in Ozark, Alabama, showed up with a little something extra.

45 of ‘em to be exact.

The 6’4 McLendon, who was listed on the Steelers website a bit on the light side for the nose tackle position last year at 280, arrived at a reported 325 pounds. It was rumored that he weighed over 300 pounds at the end of last season, but now we have verification. However, his mass is more jacked than jiggle. While not a prototypical nose tackle with his height, McLendon’s position coach John Mitchell has confidence in his ability to man the position. After the draft, Mitchell said about McLendon, “Everybody wants to discard McLendon. Let me tell you this, hold your opinion until the season is over.” Now whether or not Mitchell said this to motivate McLendon because he believes in his abilities, or whether he said it to temper the blow of the drafting of Alameda Ta’amu, nobody knows. However, McLendon will most likely begin the season as the starting nose tackle by default as a result of Casey Hampton’s ACL injury, barring a highly-unlikely phenomenal showing in training camp by Ta’amu.

McLendon finds himself staring at a once in a lifetime opportunity: the chance to start for the most prestigious defense on one of the league’s most prestigious teams, and possibly the chance to make his coach look like a genius by proving that he has what it takes to relegate Hampton to a backup.

Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of Troy University.

McLendon was signed as a free agent by the Steelers in 2009 and spent the part of the season on the practice squad. In 2010, McLendon saw some action on the defensive line and on special teams, recording two tackles and one fumble recovery against Tennessee. He was also released and resigned three times during the year.

This past season, McLendon made noticeable contributions to the team on defense, starting against the Arizona Cardinals due to a Hampton injury, racking up five tackles and one quarterback hurry. In a season that the Steelers defense uncharacteristically struggled against the run, McLendon’s starting role against the Cardinals helped limit them to only 73 yards rushing. He finished the 2011 season with 13 total tackles and one sack.

It speaks volumes about McLendon that his coaches felt confident enough to start him in only his third year, being that he was an undrafted player. The Steelers are hoping that in his fourth season, McLendon can continue his development and be an impact player to help the run defense regain its edge. The Steelers have scored on undrafted players before, and they may be on the verge of boasting another if McLendon can make the most of his opportunity.

  • Jprankster2005

    I think Mclendon has what it takes to play the position and play it properly…… I think he’s had enough watching time from Hampton…… Ta’amu will probably give him some competion….. But u hardly ever see a Rookie start so unless Mclendon would get injured Ta’amu will probably only see very limited time playing……. I don’t think there no confident in him because if they were there are a few veteran NT out there they could of signed already….. Now not saying they don’t bring someone else in to fight for the spot……But I think there very happy with him and he will be the starter for the season……I don’t think Hampton will be back this yr. and kinda thought they should of cut him with the others they did earlier in the year…… But maybe he can help Mclendon and Ta’amu in his last yr…… Or hell maybe some way he does come back late in the season……But I just don’t see it….. So I’m happy where the Defense is right now…… Younger and faster than last yr……..

  • mokhkw

    At the very least, I can see McLendon ultimately being a very good back-up who could easily start for other teams – similar to Chris Hoke in a lot of ways. In 2004 Hampton missed 10 games which Hoke started & the D didn’t miss a beat

    I can also see him becoming the Steelers NT for the future if he continues to improve.

    I think the Steelers are very fortunate to have him. He impressed me last season with his play, sometimes he looked better than The Big Snack imo.

    I don’t expect a lot from Ta’amu in his 1st season, limited reps ala Hood and Heyward in their 1st year in LeBeau’s system. If he proves to be a bust in year 1 then I can see a scenario with Hood playing some NT if Heyward can prove he’s ready to start & Keisel returns to 100%.

  • Dean Keaton

    I’m pretty sure Troy is 1-A, not 1-AA (or whatever the football divisions in college are called)

  • It could be that the O and D lines are becoming our strong suit this year. Linebackers and DBs may be the problem areas unless some guys develop quickly. And then there’s the Rosetta Stone…

  • Kingmagyar

    Hampton had 6 tackles in one game(CLE) and 4 in another(BAL) but never went over 3 in the other 11 games and had no sacks all year. McClendon’s 5 tackle game and one sack on the year hopefully could lead to good things, but I’m hoping Ta’amu develops into a 345 beast.

  • SteelerDave

    McLendon works hard and is willing to do what it takes to make it as a starter. He is a the kind of player one roots for easily. However we do have Ta’amu who seems destined to likely start after this season. Should that happen then we will be very blessed to have two quality NT’s long term.

  • steec1ty

    This is from his draft year. Numbers from pro day:


    He has never been 6’4″ or 280 lbs. For those too lazy to click a link, at his pro day he measured 6’1 3/8″ 306 lbs and apparently has spent the past three years putting on 20 lbs of muscle.

  • Hroark311

    My mistake. Troy was IAA in 2002 and moved up in 2003.

  • SteelSpine

    Hahahah, good catch. NFL teams exaggerate heights of some players though, & those habits go back a long time. I dont remember names of the players but I recall reporters commonly commented they stood next to a player who appeared nowhere near as tall as his NFL team listed him. Other times I’d see 2 receivers on same team standing side-by-side on field being interviewed in their uniforms & tho each was listed by their team as being the exact same tall height, one of em appeared significantly (several inches) shorter than the reciever next to him, heheh.

    Or maybe McLendon grew taller since college, but more-likely it’s the team’s public relations doing it for whatever reasons teams do it.

    For nose tackle though, I recall 6’1 3/8″ is at-least as good as 6’4″, & maybe that’s more reason he’s been kept each year as a NT candidate.

  • Colin Grant

    You’re correct.He hasn’t been within 20lbs of 280 since he’s been with the Steelers. His rookie year, he was slightly over 300lbs. Wex or one of the Pittsburgh newspapers did a story on him last October or November when Hoke was injured and he was pressed into duty. He talked about his off season conditioning and relentless weight room work that helped him get to the 325 plus size that he’s at now. I’m surprised that few people seem to acknowledge this. I’ve been reading all off-season about him being too small, etc, when he’s probably the 2nd heaviest lineman behind Snack. His added weight did not happen recently. It happened before he got to the Steelers and more was added LAST off season, prior to the 2011 campaign, not afterwards.

  • SteelersDepot
  • Colin Grant

    That was dated March 2012. I read about it last fall sometime, when Hoke hurt his neck and was out for the remainder of the year.With that said however, I get more info on this site than most other sites combined.

  • hp

    That’s real good news about McLendo..
    I have a lot of faith in the Steeler coaches and scouts.

    Given that they have had only two starting nose tackles over the last twenty years, Steed and Hampton, that speaks for itself. The quality at that position has been superb.
    also, giving credit where credit is due, Hoke was one helluva backup and deserves a lot of credit. His team mates sure enough know this and say as much.

    BTW, Joel Steed didn’t weigh 325 and he brought plenty.
    What a team that was! What a defense! If Ben or Marino, etc. would have been at QB in the 90’s, they’d have taken another three four rings easy.

    So, when the coach says watch out for McLendon, that’s just what I’ll do.
    And I’m betting he’ll show up big time.