Steelers NT Steve McLendon Is The Outside-Zone’s Kryptonite

Steve McLendon

Lost in the season opening loss Sunday to the Tennessee Titans was the play of nose tackle Steve McLendon, who registered two quarterback hurries, a hit and three tackles in 39 snaps played. When going through the game tape once again, there were three plays that really stood out to me and below is a break down of each.

The Titans love to run the outside-zone stretch play with running back Chris Johnson and in the past the Steelers defense has had problems defending against it when it was run by other teams. McLendon, however, showed on Sunday that he is capable of defending it by using solid technique.

In order for a nose tackle to properly maintain his lane responsibilities against the outside-zone, he must get across the face of his blocker, stay square to the line of scrimmage and protect his legs in order to stay upright. McLendon does this perfectly on all three of the plays below.

Steve McLendon Titans animated gif

On this play, McLendon gets across the face of Titans center Rob Turner and stays square. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that he keeps his feet in traffic as linebacker Larry Foote is attempting to take on the guard as the flow continues to the defenses left. McLendon fights through at the end and even makes the tackle on the play.

Steve McLendon Titans animated gif

On this play, McLendon again crosses the face of Turner and he, Brett Keisel and Lawrence Timmons force Johnson back inside to help. Had Foote done a better job off crossing the face of the right guard, this play wouldn’t have gained four yards.

Steve McLendon Titans animated gif

On this last play, McLendon not only crosses the face of Turner, he beats him to the gap for the stop. Both Timmons and LaMarr Woodley should be commended for their work on the play as well.

Should McLendon stay healthy in 2013, he certainly could have a monster year. A lot of credit goes to defensive line coach John Mitchell and former Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke as well. Hoke, who interned as a coach with the Steelers during training camp, usually always played the outside-zone stretch well and McLendon defends a lot like he did.