The Pittsburgh Steelers are expecting big things out of nose tackle Steve McLendon in his first season as a starter and we got a good look at what the former undrafrted free agent out of Troy could really do in the 2012 season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Keep in mind that McLendon only played 11 snaps in that game and he did so against Alex Mack, who is considered by many to be one of the top six or seven centers currently in the league.
Let\’s have a look at four of those snaps from that game in animated GIF form:
McLendon doesn\’t get off the ball incredibly well in this first quarter running play as Mack certainly has the angle and the leverage on him. McLendon does, however, use Mack\’s momentum against him and he slips the block in order to fill the hole and get in on the tackle.
The very next play on that Browns series the Steelers defense runs a simple zone cross blitz underneath cover-3 coverage. McLendon\’s job is to fill the B-gap on the strong side of the offense and he does so effectively. While the blitz fails to get home, McLendon\’s pressure and ability to get into the passing game forces a bad throw from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis that is behind wide receiver Greg Little. McLendon is credited with a quarterback hit on the play. Yes, Little should have caught the pass even though it was behind him, but McLendon did his job on the play nonetheless.
Later in that same drive the Browns try to run a toss sweep to their left. Both McLendon and Ziggy Hood do a good job at tying up three offensive Browns offensive linemen which enables linebacker Larry Foote to stay covered up and flow to the play for a four yard loss. McLendon does lose his feet on this play, however, but it can be forgiven being as he kept the center of the field tied up.
On a play late in the third quarter, McLendon and defensive end Cameron Heyward run a simple tackle end stunt. Notice McLendon getting his right arm out on the guard in case the switch is effectively run by Mack and left guard John Greco. An offensive line breakdown? Sure, but McLendon\’s quickness still allows him to get in for a half a sack on the play just the same. Even if he doesn\’t get there, Heyward easily will.
Those four plays that highlighted resulted in a net loss of 5 yards and McLendon played a part in each and every one of them. This is exactly what we expect to see from him in 2013.