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


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.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Mike Carroll

    Nice job Steve McClendon!

  • Anthony Renzelli

    Will be one of the few bright spots this year along with jarvis jones, wheaton, and woodley getting back to his A game

  • Christopher Wilkes

    All 3 D-lineman look great on those plays. I think we’ll do fine without Foote too.

  • MoSteel79

    If they can get some more pressure on QB from OLB position and cause some turnovers they might just buy the offense some time to get healthy/gel.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    Chris hoke for dl coach.

  • MoSteel79

    I hope you’re right, I mean I think Foote’s play can be replaced but his leadership on the field is harder to account for

  • Fr33th1nk3r

    I knew he looked good Sunday, but thanks to the great breakdown– I now realize those were three of the finest defensive plays you could ask of a 3-4 NT. I know what jersey is next to go in my collection.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I hear ya, but we have Keisel, Timmons, Woodley, Polamalu, Clark and Taylor on defense. That’s plenty of leadership right there. As long as Timmons gets all the calls right we should be fine. The only way I see us struggling is if Wilson gets the nod or remains the starter over the course of the season. If Vince Williams can’t beat out the guy that was brought in to play special teams then I think we’ll have problems there.

  • MoSteel79

    Good point about the leadership on defense. I was actually surprised that they didn’t sign McFadden off the Raiders PS but that was before I realized they felt they needed to bring in another kicker. Hopefully Suisham gets healthy very soon or Graham performs better than expected so they can go with 1 kicker and maybe bring back McFadden or another ILB just in case Wilson or Williams don’t impress as starters

  • dgh57

    Another good product crafted by John Mitchell. I see him getting more that 39 snaps this week!

  • Matthew Marczi

    I have a feeling the Steelers will be working with some 3 LB packages, as well as utilizing this opportunity to have Worilds, Jones, and Woodley all on the field at the same time, in Foote’s absence. Jones expressed willingness to play ILB after Foote’s injury (from Jim Wexell), and he has been blitzing from inside, so I can see it happening. I’m working on an article on the topic, actually. It’s reminiscent of when Sylvester was forced to start a couple years back.

  • Anthony Renzelli

    I agree but that’s a big IF since we haven’t got consistent pressure or turnovers since 2010-11

  • DAYSNWAYS

    He had a great game, should have been starting last year

  • steeltown

    <—— I am a BEAST!!!

  • steeltown

    Yea Jarvis did a lot of inside blitzing in college if I remember correctly.. and did an admirable job at it

  • Arthur Branch

    Mitchell seems to be the best coach on the team. The keep sending him average players and he turns them into serviceable D lineman.

  • Ahmad

    Big Mac doing the damn thing!

  • JohnnyV1

    McLendon played well in his first full game, and it stands to reason that, as he continues to start and hone his craft, he will continue to get better. He also offers the quickness to apply pressure that the Steelers didn’t have before.

    Foote will be harder to replace mentally than physically. But I agree, Foote’s best days are behind him and it will be good to get some youth there.

  • mem359

    That’s the big question, which is tough to answer without seeing every practice. Did he develop more since the end of last season, or was he close to being this good but wasn’t given a chance last year?

  • dgh57

    Hopefully, Nick Williams is the next guy up for Mitchell to turn into something, who as of now at least, I have high hopes on. With Keisel & Hood unsigned for next year we really need it to happen.

  • Mike Carroll

    Good call. I could see Jones moving inside more than Worilds, mainly because I think Jarvis is the better player regardless of position. Also, Jarvis kinda reminds of Farrior based on their physical builds and style of play.

  • Jonas

    Can sb. help me? It isn’t that much..
    On the last play, isn’t it Hood penetrating and Timmons is picked up by #84? It is hard to see but in my opinion it has to be #96 who comes through the hole by looking at the titans #76. Stupid similiar numbers!

    Is that why Timmons is commended? If so I think it is Ziggy, isn’t it?

  • MoSteel79

    Tell me about it…but hey here’s to optimism!

  • Jay Jaber

    i dont wanna say i was happy foot got injured cause i dont wish that on any of our players but its obvious foot was the weakest link on our defense. he cant shed a block and hes not a good tackler i miss james farior so much one of the most underrated LB when he played i think vince williams and sean spence can do a better job than foot im excited to see what vince can do

  • Jay Jaber

    i dont wanna see jarvis playing inside and i dont think he will hes to valuable to put him inside cause i dont think worlds can get the job done outside. jarvis is gonna stay outside

  • dgh57

    It’s hard to tell for sure because it’s moving so fast and the camera angle but it looks like #90 & #96 are making the tackle. #56 is being knocked on his butt & #94 at the end of the play is behind #67.

  • Jonas

    Thank you! That was my impression, too.

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