Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon has taken his fair share of criticism over the past season from fans of the organization who don’t believe that he has the size or strength to fulfill the traditional roles of the position.
And that was fine by him. In truth, there’s no bigger critic of McLendon than himself. He’s learned a lot from his first taste of full-time starting experience, and he’s taken to correcting his mistakes from a year ago.
He’s realized, for instance, that he overtrained last season, shedding more weight than he wanted to while running multiple times a day. He admits that it negatively affected both his strength and his endurance.
He’s hit the weights more this year, and if you’ve seen recent pictures of him, he certainly looks more like a prototypical nose tackle than he ever has.
“I have learned a lot since last year”, he said. “I can see a lot of areas where I can improve. I am not going to beat myself down, though. Some things I did do well. I am excited to showcase what I can do with a season under my belt”.
And with that full season as a starter under his belt comes a greater understanding and appreciation for what it takes to endure a full 16-game schedule.
One aspect that he says he is working on is adjusting to the speed of the game. It’s easier to stay on pace when you just come in for a series or two per game, which is what he typically did prior to last season.
But to go a full game, it takes more not to eventually slow down toward the end of the contest. Naturally, this also ties in with the endurance issue, which he is trying to work on by attacking it from many angles:
Some guys can start off strong but not finish strong. That is one of my biggest things. I want to be able to start strong and finish strong. I know I need to get better with pad level and hands. I do them, but they tend to fall off during the game. But I know what I need to work on. I am going to continue to work on them to get better and help this team strive for a championship.
Part of the problem last year was that he continued to lose weight and strength during the season, which decreased both his strength and durability, and helped make him more susceptible to the ankle injury that kept him out two games and the hamstring injury that he muddled through early in the year.
He wants to correct that by adapting his offseason training to an in-season mentality. “I just have to put myself in situations I was in during the season and train those ways”, McLendon said.
“You have to give yourself a fighting chance along the way. You can’t beat yourself up for the bad you did. With every bad there is a good and with every good there is a bad. You just have to sort it out and make yourself successful. I don’t want to leave any stones unturned. I want to give everything I have. I am working out extremely hard”.