Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Hebron Fangupo arrived in town late in the 2012 season via waivers from the Seattle Seahawks and ever since his arrival, we haven\’t heard much from him. David Todd of ESPN 970 Radio, however, managed to catch up with the BYU product last week during the first OTA session of 2013 season to see how he is adapting to the nose tackle position in the Steelers 3-4 defense after playing defensive tackle in the Seahawks 4-3 front.
“The defense here is different from what I\’m used to,” said Hebron, who says that he currently tips the scales at 325 pounds. “What I\’m used to is shedding blocks and getting off blocks and making plays. Now they ask us to sacrifice ourselves. So far, I know what I\’m doing, but I\’m going to have these reactions I do that gets me in trouble. I just got to work on getting rid of those bad habits – what I\’m used to – and lock into the game that we have over here.”
Fangupo, who says that he stayed in Pittsburgh during the off-season to get ready for the 2013 season, was asked to explain his role as a nose tackle in the Steelers 3-4 front.
“On the gap you got to be able to hold the point,” said Fangupo. “You got to keep the linemen off your linebackers so you give them the chance to make the play. The d-line here are very selfless people, so that\’s how they expect us to play – selfless – where we take up everybody, and the linebackers make all the plays.”
Despite veteran Casey Hampton not being re-signed so far this off-season, the Steelers still have several young nose tackles on the roster that are all battling for a spot behind starter Steve McLendon and Fangupo was asked to talk about that group.
“They\’re great people,” said Fangupo. “We have a lot of nose tackles right now – just a battle. They\’re coaching me up and they\’re teaching me what to do, but at the same time, I got to fight to feed my family, and they got to fight to feed their family. So it\’s a battle out here. It\’s a bunch of lions out here going at it.”
The group of young players whom Fangupo references includes the Steelers fourth-round draft pick from last year, Alameda Ta\’amu, in addition to undrafted free agent Omar Hunter out of Florida. As if that weren\’t enough competition for Fangupo to face, it was also reported last week that defensive end Al Woods received reps at the nose tackle position as well.
A few weeks ago, I posted about the Steelers depth issues at the nose tackle position and how I am concerned about it. While it might seem like an easy position to learn and execute, it really isn\’t, and I think the comments made above by Fangupo attest to that. Should the Steelers ultimately decide not to bring Hampton back by the time training camp rolls around, we can only hope that either Fangupo or Ta\’amu make tremendous strides between now and the start of the season.
As far Fangupo and him adapting to his new surroundings goes, he told Todd that he loves the city of Pittsburgh, but that the cold takes some getting used to.
“Might as well get used to it,” said Fangupo. “I hope I stay here.”