John Mitchell Pleased With Where Steve McLendon Is Currently At In His Development

Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon already has a career high in total tackles this season with 29. If he keeps up that pace, he will surpass his predecessor Casey Hampton‘s career high of 43. Despite his efforts, however, the Steelers run defense has allowed a 4.24 yards per rush average this season which ranks them 15th in the league right now in that stat.

McLendon, who has played the outside zone fantastic this season, still has room to improve when two-gapping against inside zone and power runs. Defensive line coach John Mitchell, however, is still happy with the progress the Troy product has made so far.

“Steve is still a young guy,” Mitchell said, according to Scott Brown of “He’s learning how to play. He’s got to learn how to keep his pad level down. The guy has good effort. He’s got to be able to take from what he sees on tape in the meeting room onto the field, and a lot of young guys who haven’t played a lot can’t do that.”

Mitchell also noted that McLendon is getting double-teamed on almost every play and that once he catches up with the speed of the game, he will play faster.

McLendon, for the most part, isn’t playing bad at all in his first full season as a starter. He has already registered 14 stops and seven quarterback hurries so far this season to go along with one quarterback sack.

So is  that 4.24 yards per rush a bit misleading? Yes, it actually is. The Steelers defense has allowed four runs of 23 yards or more this season with three of those going for 55 yards or more. Subtract those four runs out and they are giving up just 3.51 yards per rush on the other 291 runs. That would rank them 3rd in the league.

Not that it proves anything, but according to numbers kept by the NFL, teams have ran right up the middle against the Steelers 78 times for a 2.69 average. That’s tops in the league.

“Right now I’m really pleased where he’s at, and he’s going to be a good football player,” Mitchell said.

  • steeltown

    You can tell McLendon is a good Football player, he’s strong and very quick for his size. He does need work as a 2gap no doubt about it, but as talked about in a previous article a lot of the run defense problems are due to poor tackling from the secondary and probably a bit of inexperience at BUCK ILB

  • Alan Felicia

    Yikes – as of this morning, Pittsburgh is ranked 26th in Rushing Yards Allowed (125.2 yds – Arizona is 2nd allowing 81.4 yds/game and Jets leads league allowing only 73.2 yds/game), 27th in INTs (6), and ranked 28th in Sacks (18).
    Need more help on defense!

  • steeltown

    The big plays have killed us this year, between A.Petersons big game against us and Pryor’s 93yd run, our yds allowed stat is bulging

  • SteelersDepot

    you realize that four run plays resulted in 231 rushing yards (18%), right? That will REALLY tilt a per game average.

  • Dom

    My favorite play this past week was when ran back and made a tackle after Clark, Troy and I think Taylor all missed tackles. He has very good speed for a big guy.


    When critiquing McLendon, it’s easy to forget this is his first season as a starter. Glad he didn’t go to Green Bay.

  • Berlusconi

    The 125.2 yds/game are a fact and we cannot exclude any runs from this statistic.
    But the number alone only tells us that there is a problem, not what the problem is. Maybe this number is not telling us that the Steelers have an inherently bad run defense, but rather shows other flaws like poor tackling or bad pursuit angles or missed assignments, ….

  • Berlusconi

    The Steelers were determined not to let McLendon go, it would have been a mess!

  • SteelersDepot

    Um, you know the four runs, right and what happened on each? Pryor (assignment), AP (tons of missed tackles), Forte (missed tackles)

  • treeher

    Even so, hasn’t produced that much success for Jets. Their record this year is odd: win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win, loss.

  • Mike Carroll

    This is encouraging. Glad to hear Mitchell’s thoughts on McLendon.

  • Berlusconi

    Actually I could not remember all of the runs, i totally forgot about the Forte run. So missed tackles and assignments are the whole story right now. Thanks!

  • Ben Anderson

    Bottom line, we still need a real NT.

  • Matt Manzo

    I go back and forth on this one. Maybe not a 1-3rd pick, but are there any good prospects around round 4?

  • Ben Anderson

    At this point, I think they ought to just go ahead and use a 1, maybe a 2 on a guy and solve the problem for a decade. 3-4 DLs are in higher demand now than they were years ago when they picked up Casey with a 19 overall and Smith in the 4th round. We likely won’t see those days again for a long time.

  • Alan Felicia

    Bottom line, when Pittsburgh reached the Super Bowl in 2005, 2008, 2010 season, the defense was rank in the top 3 in Rushing yards allowed, Sacks, and Turnovers. There is a stat on ESPN in which a LeBeau defense allowed only 1 one 100-yard rusher in 50 games that spanned 2007-2010.
    Now, in week 12, Pittsburgh is ranked in the bottom 6 in these categories.

  • Alan Felicia

    Here are the Rushing Yards allowed this season:

    Tenn – 112

    Cinn – 127

    Chi – 107

    Minn – 145

    NYJ – 83

    Balt – 82

    Oak – 197

    NE – 197

    Buff – 95

    Det – 107

    Not too long ago that this defense only allowed 1one 100-yard rusher in 50 games that spanned 2007-2010.

  • CW

    I don’t believe McLendon is the issue. Keisel is probably done due to age and Hood hasn’t been that good at run defense overall. Add in Vince Williams as a starting rookie Buck linebacker and the issues are pretty much there at least as far as the front seven goes. Williams is improving so that issue should take care of itself. Heyward has really come into his own and is steadily improving, so that DE position should be already taken care of.

    So the Steelers really should look at next year’s draft for another solid run stuffing defensive end in the later rounds and keep developing Arnfelt on the practice squad and Nick Williams once he’s able to come off IR this spring.


    Any good prospects around round 4? Like someone in the caliber of Alameda Ta’Amu?

  • Ben Anderson

    You’re funny, James.


    Thought I would support your cause. If they feel McLendon isn’t the NT of the future, take one in the first or second and be done with it as you said. Otherwise we’re just spanking our monkeys.

  • RW

    Those two things are different – you’re looking at total rushing yards vs. 100 yard individual performances.

  • Busforever

    Exactly what i wanted to say.

  • Matt Manzo

    I think Mclendon should be great. That’s why I don’t want to take a NT in the high rounds. I was hoping there’s a diamond in the rough in the mid rounds. I still think we gave up on Taamu too fast.

  • Bradley Campbell

    We were starting two rookie LBs and our Safeties look old. Those long runs are on them 100%

  • Jonas

    The argument is that it isn’t the NT’s fault but the defensive backfields

  • Ben Anderson

    I knew you we’re kidding.

  • Asmitty56

    No, they need a rotational NT, a big clog in the middle. Teams want their very on Dontari Poe now a days, so they may just ignore the big run stuffers that provides little in pass rushing ability. We can certainly use a value pick on a role player NT in the future. It’s just a shame that Hebron Fangupo hasn’t seen the field what so ever