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 ESPN.com. "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.