Today we continue on with our look at the training camp roster battles for the Pittsburgh Steelers by looking at the nose tackle position.
Steve McLendon and rookie Alameda Ta\'amu are locks to make the 90 man roster and we will take a look at both of them more in depth later. Casey Hampton will open training camp on the active PUP list as he continues to recover from the torn ACL that he suffered in the AFC Wild Card game. Hampton is shooting to be ready by week one of the season, but that may be wishful thinking on his part. If he is close to being ready by that time, he might not warrant starting the season on the reserve PUP list. Most of the thinking though is that he will miss at least the first six weeks of the season though. We shall see.
Starting left defensive end Ziggy Hood reportedly has taken some snaps during the off-season practices at nose tackle, so one could deduct that he will serve as the emergency player at that position. With all of the above said, I see the Steelers only keeping McLendon and Ta\'amu until Hampton is healthy.
The other two players listed as defensive tackles on the Steelers 90 man roster are Kade Weston and Mike Blanc. Neither are expected to make the 53 man roster, but we will have a look at both players regardless.
Kade Weston - Weston has an interesting back story. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL draft by the New England Patriots and suffered a punctured small intestine in the Patriots second preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons and the injury required emergency surgery. The Patriots waived him injured and he landed back on their injured reserve list after clearing waivers. He was back in training camp with the Patriots last season, but was released in late August. Weston spent one week on the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts in October and that was it. The Steelers signed Weston to a futures contract this past January and he reportedly weighed 349 pounds at the time. He began training in Atlanta around that same time and now reportedly weighs around 315 pounds. There is virtually no chance that Weston will make the 53 man roster with McLendon and Ta\'amu ahead of him, but there might be a slim chance he could be a candidate for the practice squad, especially early on in the season should Hampton start the year on the PUP list. While at Georgia, Weston played nose tackle in a 3-4 defense that mostly used one gap control instead of the two gap system that the Steelers play. This will be a big adjustment for the 6-foot-5 former Bulldog as he must show his ability to control two gaps and often times tie up two blockers. He figures to get very few reps in training camp and his playing time in the preseason figures to come late in games where he must dominate his competition to prove worthy of a practice squad spot.
Mike Blanc - Blanc is an undersized defensive tackle out of Auburn that needs a ton of mass, muscle and prayers. He was not invited to the NFL combine back in February and measured in at his pro day at 6024 and weighed 281 pounds. Blanc did 23 reps on the bench and had a vertical jump of 28.5 inches to go along with a broad jump of 9 foot 4 inches. Although he his listed as a defensive tackle, you have to wonder if his size might dictate him being worked at defensive end. There were no reports of where he lined up this off-season during practices, so we can only speculate how he will be used until training camp begins. Regardless of where he does line up on the defensive line, he will likely not be around too long.
As you can see there are not any roster battles here at this position. Al Woods name has been thrown around as possible candidate to play some nose tackle, but he was not spotted by one source as doing so during the OTA and mini-camp sessions. The Steelers seem intent at making him a defensive end according to most reports I have seen. Weston at best is playing for a spot on the practice squad. I would expect McLendon, Ta\'amu, Weston, and perhaps even Hood, to get all of the preseason work at the position.
Previous Training Camp Roster Battle Post
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Defensive Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Wide Receivers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Tight Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Kickers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Cornerbacks
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Safeties
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Running Backs