Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – NT Steve McLendon

By Matthew Marczi

End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.

Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.

Player: Steve McLendon

Position: Nose Tackle

Experience: 4 Years

The Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 were tasked for the first time in over a decade to figure out how to stop the run without nose tackle Casey Hampton clogging up the middle of the field. He helped the Steelers to a historically imposing run defense in 2010, the last time Pittsburgh was in the Super Bowl.

That year was also the first season for Steve McLendon, a former undrafted free agent that began at defensive end and entered his first season as the starting nose tackle for the Steelers this past year.

Less physically daunting than his predecessor yet more agile, the Steelers knew going in that McLendon would not be playing the nose tackle position in exactly the same way that they’d been accustomed to.

If you look at the raw numbers, the general impression would be that McLendon must not have played particularly well, as the Steelers gave up 115.6 yards on the ground per game in 2013, which ranked 21st in the league. They also allowed 4.3 yards per carry, which was tied for 21st in the league. To top it off, they allowed 18 rushing touchdowns, which was tied for fifth-most league-wide.

Those numbers don’t exactly tell McLendon’s story, however, in large part because of how frequently the Steelers ran without a nose tackle. McLendon played only 355 snaps last season, many of which (12%) actually came in sub-packages as a defensive tackle with two down linemen.

In other words, much of the rushing production against the Steelers last season came with McLendon on the sidelines. Taking a more in-depth approach indicates that opponents had greater—and more frequent—success on the ground when attacking the perimeter rather than going up the middle. And that is largely because of McLendon.

While he doesn’t (yet) command and navigate consistent double teams quite as easily as more large-bodied nose tackles, McLendon has little issue holding the point. His superior athleticism and mobility for the position allows him to make more plays on his own, as indicated by his 33 tackles in 14 games while playing wildly varying snap counts throughout the year.

One area in which I will say that he did not quite meet expectations would be in what he brought to the pass rush. He started off well in this area, having a strong season opener against a good offensive line, but his production as a pass rusher quickly tailed off. He failed to record a sack after having two last season.

Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – QB Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Antonio Brown
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Emmanuel Sanders
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – TE Heath Miller
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – T Marcus Gilbert
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – G David DeCastro
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – G Ramon Foster
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – T Kelvin Beachum
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – RB Le’Veon Bell
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – C Fernando Velasco
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – FB Will Johnson
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – DE Brett Keisel

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Steve

    With two rookies playing behind him and a safety who couldn’t tackle, Big Mac did his job as best he could. Steelers Defense is in a transition and there were too many mistakes made to single out any one player.

  • Matt Manzo

    I agree. He’s young and smart, so his second year starting we should see a lot of improvement! Since he doesn’t just bull rush, his game will take education and practice to perfect.

  • 243546

    Yup. I think people also forget about the impact that James Harrison had on the run game. I would even argue that the loss of Harrison hurt the run D more that the loss of Hampton.

    The team needs more team speed on the defensive side of the ball. There were a lot of runs that went longer than they should have, because of the secondary.

  • 243546

    One more thing. The Steelers used their quarters package a lot this year, especially against teams that like to utilize two TE personnel groups. That meant playing a third Safety in, with Troy playing near the line. If the Steelers had a reliable nickle backer, Troy could stay at SS, instead of having someone like Will Allen coming in as the third safety. If the Spence is back to where he was before the injury, or if the steelers could draft a guy like Ryan Shazier, then the defense would have a Nicole backer with speed, and the ability to defend the run. Also, if Troy and Thomas are the two safeties, now you’re looking at a defense that can be fast and aggressive enough to defend the run when in sub packages.

  • Steve

    There will be more speed as the Defense gets younger. Players being out of position cost big plays. Missed tackles and not wrapping up also caused big plays. Clark and Keisel will likely be gone next year, it will be new blood taking their place,

  • steeltown

    Agreed. In addition to physicality and sound tackling ability I sure hope they target speed when scouting DBs this year and next. We have Shamarko and Antwon Blake who have good speed, we need a couple more