Steelers NT Daniel McCullers Starting To Move People

Going back to last year, with the Pittsburgh Steelers mired in what seemed to be a lost season, the upcoming draft was a topic of conversation in November and December far more frequently than is the norm in western Pennsylvania.

Back then, the go-to “the Steelers need to draft…” tended to be nose tackle Louis Nix, who ended up staying on the board all the way into the third round. Instead, they came away with the 6’7” Daniel McCullers in the late in the draft.

Despite some draft projections suggesting that he had the talent and potential to be drafted in the third or fourth round, he fell all the way to the sixth, where Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and the Steelers front office drafted him as a “size prospect”. There really is no other way to describe a 6’7”, 350-plus-pound man.

The team’s fan base seemed less enthusiastic about the big man than did the head coach and general manager when discussing the pick in the post-draft press conference. At the very least, opinions were quite divided, and remain so.

It’s easy to hold a certain view and let the conversation remain stagnant, of course, when there’s nothing new to report that can alter perception. Since the draft, all we’ve had to go on was reviewing McCullers’ college tape and picking apart his flaws, such as his high pad level and slow step off the snap.

At least with the start of training camp last week, we’ve finally begun to start seeing the fruits of this offseason labor.

Right from the first practice, for example, we’ve heard that McCullers was running as the second-team nose tackle behind Steve McLendon, ahead of the likes of Hebron Fangupo, who was on the roster last year, and Al Lapuaho.

That has continued to be the case through the very early portions of training camp, with some positive signs. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Mark Kaboly Tweeted yesterday that McCullers had his best practice of camp so far on Wednesday, and later wrote the following:

Daniel McCullers is a monster of a man, and he showed that he can play some football as well. McCullers was active all day on Wednesday whether it was pushing Cody Wallace into the backfield during linemen pass blocking drills or swallowing Dri Archer during the 11-on-11 live tackling period. Now, McCullers looks like he needs to get a little more sense of urgency with his play, but that will come. He is a quiet kid who is just trying to fit in during the early days of camp.

Fellow Review writer Ken Laird also got quite the colorful sound bite about the rookie nose tackle from cornerback William Gay:

We call him ‘Big Dan’. He reminds me of the movie ‘The Longest Yard’, the big dude that was in there and he started crying and then destroyed everybody. Me and Troy were just talking, every time we’re going to just walk up and give him a hug. Nice guy. Won’t say too much to you. I told him, ‘Once you get six years in, people are going to be scared to talk to you.’ You’re going to say ‘Get out my face’. I told him, ‘You’re bigger than everybody. Just move people’.

The Steelers don’t need him to scare people just yet, but if he can contribute in a rotation at nose tackle with McLendon as a rookie, I think both the coaching staff and front office will be quite pleased with the young man’s progress.

About the Author

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

    He brokeded my nose

  • steeltown

    I know it’s still very early on, but McCullers playing 2nd Team is encouraging. He seems to be making plays here and there as well which is nice to hear.

  • dkoy85

    Good to hear. Seems to be a lot of positive news coming this early in camp from this years rookie class. Not sure I’m hearing what I want to hear or if they really are showing good potential.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Once the season starts, Cam Thomas will be the second string NT, in my opinion. He is an experienced player at the position while McCullers will definitely be a project his first year or two.

  • Lil Smitty

    I like the fact he doesn’t seem to be getting pushed around because he is too high or slow. I would really like to see him and Stepon Tuitt in the middle of the line defending field goals. Get one step into the backfield raise their hands and kicker would have kick over a ten foot wall five yards in front of him. In close games or overtime a blocked field goal could be huge.

  • Tony Richards

    Will you teach me to football?

    I’ll teach you anything, just don’t eat me.

  • mem359

    Probably true.
    The question is, will McCullers show enough to replace Fangupo as a weekly inactive player? If good reports keep coming out of camp, I don’t think the Steelers will risk trying to put him on the practice squad.

  • Geoff Cordner

    Unless there is truth behind the domestic abuse charges raised against Cam! If true, could the Steelers cut their ties?

  • Geoff Cordner

    I agree! Except for the injured two.. things look promising.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Unless he is charged with a crime, I don’t see that happening. I’m really looking forward to the preseason games to see how McCullers looks. There really are going to be some tough cuts this year.

  • Steelers12328882

    I have to admit I’m really surprised to hear such positive things about McCullers. He already sounds like he has a realistic chance of making the 53.

  • srdan

    I’m going to put the cart before the horse just to amuse myself. Cam, McCullers, Tuitt in 2 years. Try to run the ball on them with 3 linebackers behind them that were 1st round picks.

  • dkoy85

    If everybody lives up to their billing and McCullers progresses that could be a very exciting group! Not to mention Shark and Mitchell roaming the back field- I’m beginning to see why they haven’t put too much emphasis on CB.

  • Biggie

    I am liking what I am hearing about McCullers so far, only question has been his endurance through practice as it is said he is a bit worn at the end. However that said he will not be expected to be on the field very much as first, mainly just to spell McLendon, if Thomas isn’t. I am liking our depth more and more early on. Heyward, Thomas, Tuitt at DE, McLendon, McCullers NT with some solid competition from the rest for one or two spots. I still won’t say Keisel is not an option still if the other young guys are not ready, but if so it will only be for one year. We have alot of good options finally on the DL and with McLendon adding weight and strength the middle should be much better this year.

  • The idea of putting this kid in for short yardage situations is exciting.

  • CW

    Throw in the positive reports about rookie DE Josh Mauro, who had several scouts comparing him to a young Keisel, and the defensive line could be set for a while.

  • Tanner Blackman

    This is a win win guy if he doesn’t work out at NT you can move him over to OT

  • Jonny Panic

    Probably not. OT is a much harder position to learn.

  • dgh57

    I at first had Mt. McCullers on the PS but recently upgraded him(on my own 53 man roster) based on some unique skills he might be able to provide us to move ahead of Fang. We’ll see soon enough if can chisel that in stone in the upcoming preseason games. I’ll continue to hold a optimistic view until he proves otherwise.

  • dgh57

    Come on! We have a Franchise QB we’re trying to protect!!!

    Unless we keep 12 OL on the roster and he’s the 12th guy! LOL!!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I am getting a sneaking suspicion that they intend to keep these guys fresh. Perhaps much more rotation this upcoming year. I mean these guys are guaranteed contact on every bloody play, so why no go like animals for a few plays or a series, then switch them up. Provided the coaches trust they know their assignments.

    Many other teams do this, and get production from many different players. We shall see.

  • Big White

    Best news of camp. Giddy with joy!

  • Jesse Murray

    Good start but I’ll hold off on getting excited about any rookie including Mccullers until he shows it in a game.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Agreed and I think that Mauro was a great signing.

  • Bradys_Dad

    You can still get 6 games (-2 for good behavior) even if you’re NOT proven guilty in this league. If you are proven guilty, pop the champagne and take 2 weeks off.

  • SteelersDepot

    this is where I am with him.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    And not only run stuffing. They’ll help the pass game as well.

    Our biggest weakness (on defense) is defending the quick short passes from guys like Manning and Brady. When you get LONG ARMS up in the air on every play you close those windows.

    Also, sooner or later, you tip a pass. That leads to INT’s. And pick 6’s. Just one of those can literally win/lose a game.

    I’ve got BIG hopes for McCullers at NT. I understand he needs development. But I like those long arms.

  • charles

    You mean as a tailback, like ‘the fridge’?

  • charles

    At Tennessee his nick name was ‘shade tree’.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It will be pretty difficult to have your starting left defensive end spell your starting nose tackle. Not impossible, but it would require planning…and of course a third defensive end ready to log significant snaps.

  • On defense.

  • James Miles

    This guy like Shermanko is going to be another disappointment. All hype and no substance. It is a shame you fools keep believing in all the hype. We will be lucky to go 8-8.

  • charles

    You are right about letting someone show themselves at game speed. However, our anemic numbers with sacks and ints lends a sense of desperation on the Dline. If shade tree shows enough to rotate with Mac or to even start, our DL can start looking like Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton again and Jones can start acting like a#1with Porter’s tutelage. And we can start the beginning of the second dynasty….

  • Dewayne Braxton

    How can you call a second year third round pick a disappointment? I can see calling higher picks with experience like Gilbert and Adams disappointments but not Thomas.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Unless they improve we do not have high quality starting tackle on the line.

  • dgh57

    Maybe so, but Mt. McCullers sounds better to me.

  • dgh57

    We could stand to improve in the OT area but McCullers isn’t going to be the answer

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I don’t think Fangupo will make the team, so if McCullers winds up making the team, he won’t be ready to be the backup NT. I doubt he would even dress for games. I think Cam Thomas is taking the role of Al Woods, who could play both DE and NT.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Except Al Woods wasn’t a starter. How is Thomas going to get a rest if he has to start at LDE and then move over to NT to spell McLendon?

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I don’t think that Thomas is going to be in on every play at DE. They always dress at least 5 DL. I can see Tuitt being in on some plays on a rotational basis. Steve McClendon doesn’t play on every down either. I think the only DL that will be in there all of the time is Cam Heyward.

  • Darren Clark

    I love underdog, The sky is the limit for Big Dan!!! GO STEELERS