Steelers Thoughts On Nose Tackle Depth Will Be Known Following The Draft

Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Alameda Ta\’amu made a poor decision Sunday evening when he retweeted an old picture of himself with an acquaintance in a car with a bottle of Cinnamon whiskey. He has since deleted those tweets and apologized.

Moving forward now, it will be interesting to see if the Steelers feel comfortable enough with Ta\’amu and Hebron Fangupo, who they signed off of waivers from the Seattle Seahawks last season, fighting to back up Steve McLendon as they head into the draft later this month. If they draft a nose tackle at any point during the draft, it will be a clear sign that they aren\’t.

Both Ta\’amu and Fangupo have yet to dress in a Steelers uniform for a game, while McLendon has started just one game and played less than 400 snaps since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009. As it looks right now, long-time starter Casey Hampton will not be back, but that could change quickly depending on how the draft goes.

A nose tackle in the Steelers 3-4 defense is not one that will not put up great stats, but his performance goes a long way in making the defense successful. The ability of a good 3-4 nose tackle to one and two gap against the run, and often times take on more than one blocker, allows for the linebackers to fill the running lanes and make plays.

Against the pass, a good 3-4 nose tackle must be able to push the pocket up the middle on a consistent basis, something that Hampton hasn\’t been able to do over the course of the last two seasons.

McLendon has shown over the course of the last few seasons that he deserves an opportunity to start. It won\’t take many games into the 2013 season; however, to figure out if he can become the successor to Hampton for the next few seasons. Should he go down with an injury, it will be up to Ta\’amu or Fangupo to replace him.

Hopefully, the Steelers don\’t have to invest an early round draft pick on a nose tackle, who is almost certain to see zero playing time in his rookie season. If they do decide to invest an early pick, it will come at the expense of another position of need of which the Steelers have plenty.

  • steeltown

    I think they are going to see what McLendon and Ta’amu /Fangupo can do, it would be premature of them to assume that none of these guys are capable, not to mention that even if they would draft a NT he wouldnt start in 2013 and in all likelihood would have trouble surpassing Ta’amu on the depth chart (unless he was 1st Rd talent)

    Just because the guys currently on roster arent 1st Rd picks.. dont assume they are not capable… lets wait and see

  • mokhkw

    The NFL landscape is littered with 3-4 teams that failed because the NT wasn’t up to the job. Imo it’s the most vital position of the 3-4; if the NT isn’t getting double teamed then both ILBs likely have to deal with Guards.

    There’s no rush to re-sign Hampton as it’s unlikely he would be attractive to other teams with his age, but it seems that McLendon has been given a chance to take his job last year but didn’t impress enough to beat out a declining 35 year old vet.

    At 27yo you have to wonder if that time will ever come or if he will continue to fill Chris Hoke’s old role of the Pass Rusher, a role he seems ideal for. His play vs the run is nowhere near as solid and for NTs that is their bread & butter. I don’t have any faith in McLendon as a starter because he hasn’t shown he can do that job on every down, not just the passing downs. See Week 17 last season vs Browns for evidence of this.

    Steelers have been running the 3-4 longer than anyone & would have to know just how critical this position is to the success of the D. While others may not see it this way, I’d bet NT is higher on their Draft needs list than anyone realizes. I certainly think it’s more of a concern than OLB for example.

    While rookies normally don’t start on D for the Steelers, NT can be the exception – Hampton started his rookie year – as it’s the simplest position in a 3-4 to learn.

    If the Steelers don’t draft a NT early I expect Hampton will be resigned post Draft and a training camp battle for the 3 spots out of the 4 NTs will follow.

  • Cody Younkin

    they have plenty of depth at this position. I would have Fangupo play NT and move Mclendon the the 5 tech and Heywar the to 3 tech. Thats the best line we could have with our personell

  • With the current uncertainty with Mclendon being able to handle full time duty combined with lack of experience at depth, perhaps the Steelers will bring in a 3rd-5th year Free Agent experienced guy to provide that depth. Maybe someone else’s Chris Hoke? We know they are against the wall with the cap but…

  • It would be great if the Stars were aligned for us during the draft (pardon my pun), if he falls, then we would have to take him, our NT position will be set for a decade.

  • I like Brandon Williams in the 3rd rd., but I think we have more pressing needs. We’ll probably have the chance to resign Hampton after the draft too.

  • SteelSpine

    Too many other positions of higher priority need for Steelers to use a pick on a NT before ~5th, & maybe that’s part of why kept Taamu. Can’t neglect drafting OLB, safeties, WR, RB etc, & odds are at each top 5 of our picks there’ll be BAAs of a coupla those other ~5 positions which are must-draft now. We used to put Hoke in & had no dropoff as people said with 3-4 each DL mainly supposed to just tie up blockers so LBs can make the plays.

    Even if we again spend even as high as a 4th rd on a NT, who’s to say the next one won’t do/be the same result as Taamu? Because right now I don’t trust our FO drafting, based on that & Rainey same draft, & our FO has not sent a message on Taamu. Plus that judge’s message to teens = “be a Steeler so you wont serve any jail time”. Gonna take a coupla years of good drafts or more past picks panning out well before I think Steelers FO wont draft those same risks. I used to agree with sports media nationwide who said Steelers drafted better than any team for decades. We’ll probly get back there but gonna take awhile for me.

  • hp

    McLendon is key to the future.
    The Steelers seem to have a pro bowl NT as default.
    The last 20+ years only two, Steed and Hampton, and they were rock solid.
    Also Hoke stepped up and played superbly when needed.

    Forget the 4-3 or jockeying these guys around.
    McLendon was born to play NT for Pittsburgh, right on schedule.