Steelers NT Steve McLendon Is \”Running\” Into His First Season As A Starter

During a recent Q & A session with fans on steelers.com, Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon was asked to compare himself to his predecessor Casey Hampton, and the former undrafted free agent gave a fair assessment of himself in his answer.

“The only thing that is similar is power and strength,” replied McLendon. “What makes us different is he is heavier than I am. He can hold double teams better than I can. But I feel like I am quicker, but his reaction is better. The height is different and he is smarter at the game than I am. But I am trying to accomplish everything he did.”

Being behind Hampton on the depth chart last season resulted in McLendon only playing 139 snaps. Now that he\’s the starter, he will get at least four times that amount in 2013 and perhaps even more.

McLendon has been known as a workout warrior for quite some time now, but this offseason, he trained even harder and that included him running a lot.

“I went back to my original training routine,” McLendon said Sunday. “I ran a lot. I made sure I was going to be in shape. That was my biggest thing, my biggest concern was just make sure I\’m in extremely great shape. I lifted. I ran. I did drills – most of all, just being able to run, being able to condition, because coach Tomlin says all the time, “highly conditioned athletes will be able to play better.”

While McLendon might not be able to two-gap against the run like Hampton could, the Steelers defense didn\’t suffer when he was on the field last year. In fact, when he was on the field in 2012, the opposition rushed for 3.43 yards per carry as opposed to 3.56 when he was on the sidelines.

McLendon\’s quickness will hopefully show this season when rushing the passer. In the 73 plays that he rushed the passer in 2012, he recorded two sacks to go along with two hurries and two quarterback hits. It\’s unfair to use those stats, however, as a means of measurement because often times a nose tackle will stunt or slant to the B-gap in order to provide rushing lanes for a looping defensive end or a blitzing linebacker.

As a team, the Steelers recorded 37 sacks in 2012, and McLendon was on the field in either the base or the nickel defense for 9 of them. When Hampton was on the field, the defense registered 14 sacks with McLendon being on the field for one of those. When you consider that Hampton played 364 more snaps than McLendon did last year, you can see why the decision was made not to bring back Hampton.

McLendon has said he wants to play all three downs in 2013 if the coaches let him and while that\’s not likely to happen, his conditioning level should allow him to play more in the nickel on long drives when a defensive end needs a breather. When the Steelers are in the nickel, McLendon will more times than not be allowed to use that quickness of his to rush the passer, or should I say, run after the passer.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    When a player like McLendon who acknowledged his limits, strengths, and weakness he’ll be able to develop around those. A certain focus only can elevate him to next level of performance. Loving it!

  • woundedvet

    Cant wait to see him take advantage of his due opportunity to be a starter. Chris Hoke was not naturally big yet somehow there wasnt a dropoff in our great defense the times Hoke had to play nose tackle. So you can imagine the higher ceiling/potential with McLendon at the NT spot. This is headed for one of the delicious things to look forward to seeing.

  • dgh57

    If McLendon thinks he can be successful on 3td down, I say let him have at it! His ability to rush the passer would only augment the blitzers that come on 3td down. We wouldn’t be taking full advantage of this guys quickness unless we at least let him try! I think we’ll at least experiment with it this preseason.

  • steeltown

    Bring the pain!!!

  • woundedvet

    Just not pain to McLendon, we have enough guys hurt, than to jinx McClendon. Hahah I know you meant pain to other teams, not to Mac or to our offensive line Mac is about to play against in training camp! Knock on wood for our o line he’s going against.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’m excited to see him take the next step. I think he will. Hampton doesn’t throw verbal bouquets around just to make someone feel good, so if he thinks McClendon is going to be very good (he said that last year at one point), I have no reason not to believe him.