Steelers Pre-Camp Depth Chart Update – Nose Tackle

With minicamp in the rearview mirror and training camp on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Steelers should already have all of the main components of their offseason roster in place, with all draft picks signed and no more free agents projected to be added until further evaluation.

It’s possible that a need should arise for further additions, either due to poor performance or injuries, once we reach training camp.

But for the time being, we should take a look at the depth chart that the front office has put together since the end of the 2013 season and see how well it stacks up in terms of quality and depth.

Due to the cumbersome lengths that offseason rosters can reach, we will be projecting a number or range of roster spots per position and focusing on that number of players per position, with other potential notables receiving mention below.

Position: Nose Tackle

Projected Roster Spots: 2-3

Steve McLendon: Steve McLendon stepped into the starting lineup for the first time last season, and he seems to have learned a lot after going through that experience. He seems better prepared from both a mental and a physical standpoint to deal with the rigors of playing the nose tackle position for 16 games a year.

Hebron Fangupo: Hebron Fangupo beat out Alameda Ta’amu for the backup nose tackle job last year, but he hardly received any playing time. The majority of that time went to Al Woods, who even started two games at nose tackle last season.

This year, he is hoping to not only make the team, but to earn himself a position in the rotation. He is working on his mobility this summer, which was one of the areas of concern last year, but he has a new crop of challengers this time.

Daniel McCullers: Though he is massive at around 350 pounds, the fact that he is also 6’7” means that Daniel McCuller doesn’t necessarily have the prototypical nose tackle build. It’s even been suggested that if he loses a bit of weight, the Steelers could also play him on the outside.

But he’s quite raw and has obvious technical flaws that would need to be worked out. He could be in the competition for a seventh defensive line spot, but he may find himself headed to the practice squad as a rookie.

Others: First-year former undrafted free agent Al Lapuaho did see some second-team reps in sub-packages during OTAs. Roy Philon has also been added to the competition. Depending on the development of some of the defensive ends, Cam Thomas could also be seeing a good number of reps along the interior this season, more likely toward the end of the year while he holds down the starting left defensive end position.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • http://suspect5.bandcamp.com/ HardPunkKore

    Get ready for the hate because you have McCullers going to the practice squad and not starting. A lot of people want him to start, imagine how bad the defense would be this year if he did. They might be screaming for McLendon to be put back on the field. Maybe some of them will slow down once the pads come on and they realize in the preseason games, he is still a project and not ready to see real game action yet. On the other hand I will eat my words if he plays well but if history has shown us anything I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • ApexSteel

    McCullers would have to lose around 40 lbs and somehow still get stronger to be able to play DE. He’d have to take the entire season off and get on that JaMarcus Russell workout for that to even be plausible. I said it before, just try him at Offensive Tackle because he’s not what you’d want on the D-line at all.

  • joed32

    I haven’t seen anyone here saying he should start. Is this coming from another forum?

  • Lil Smitty

    McCullers seems to be the bubble man and he might also create problems if he shows promise during the preseason. If he impresses a little with his play would he clear waivers? Would the Steelers be forced to keep him on the 53 and let someone else go? A starter? No. But maybe number three nose tackle.

  • falconsaftey43

    He’s obviously what the Steelers want on the DL… that’s why they drafted him. He is plenty strong, he just needs a lot of technique work. I don’t know if he’d ever be able to gain enough quickness to be effective at DE, but it’s possible. He carries his weight really well, I don’t know how much he could realistically lose.

  • ApexSteel

    He’s a project that means they think he has potential, but dont like him how he is now. He wasn’t that strong and he was awful when it came to getting low which is why he was puShed around so easily. That can be fixed, but it’s hard to change a player’s instincts. At 6’7 340 he has the size to play OT, but I can confidently say that he will never be an impact player on our D-line.

  • falconsaftey43

    Right, they don’t like his technique. My point being that you said he is not what you want on the DL at all. Obviously the Steelers feel differently or else they would never have drafted him. He has a lot of potential at DL if he can improve somethings. Does that mean it will work out? No, but he has the physical skill set to be something there, that’s why he was drafted.

  • steeltown

    It all depends on Fangupo IMO, Cam Thomas will most likely play the majority of his snaps at DE, atleast for the time being so that leaves Fang and McCullers fighting for that last (backup NT) spot

  • ApexSteel

    6’7, 340, soft, and weak for his size is awful for a NT. This article is about this season’s NT depth so I spoke on his chances of being a backup NT this year. They aren’t good.

  • falconsaftey43

    His chances of being a backup OT ever are terrible so why bring that up then? And FYI, he isn’t weak, when he uses decent technique his strength shows. I don’t think he makes it as a back up NT. He might be practice squad or game day inactive if they are worried about losing him, but he has long term potential on the DL.

  • Big White

    We had a great offseason regarding personnel, but the one miss was letting Woods walk for what turned out to be a marginal contract.

  • ApexSteel

    I mentioned him playing OT because (like I’ve already said twice) I don’t see him playing on the D-Line. Not only this year, but ever. His only true skill set is that he’s big. He’s not fast, he’s weak for his size, and he was never overly productive

  • Jake Marion

    McCullers may be large and heavy, but he is fit. I have read reports that he has 15% body fat. This guy is muscular and lean. Any weight loss would mean loss of muscle mass and strength. Best not to ask this young man to lose any more weight.

  • AndyR34

    What makes you think that the FO “missed”? Woods said that he didn’t even talk to the Steelers and went to Tenn. because he thought he had a better chance to start. So how much would you have overpayed to keep him? Give us a number that would have kept him a Steeler.

  • Jake Marion

    If he has 15% body fat, as I have read elsewhere, he is not soft and weak. He has 289 lbs. of lean body mass. This is a strong young man. Soft and weak do not fit his description.

  • ApexSteel

    Watch the tape.

  • ApexSteel

    He had 1.5 in 4 years in college. Not a pass rusher.

  • IckyD

    With his length he’d be most effective using his long arms to block passing lanes and blowing up run-block schemes.

    He has prototypical OT size but let’s see if he can play defense first.

  • IckyD

    Who was the other guy we had on the PS at NT last year?

  • ApexSteel

    That’s true, but up until this point he hasn’t done it. His tape doesn’t give me any indication that he will.

  • falconsaftey43

    He’s not an OT either

  • falconsaftey43

    I don’t understand your argument. The tape doesn’t show he can play DL well (I agree he has a lot of technique to improve upon). So you say they should put him at OT becasue of his body type? He has zero tape there, and probably never played a snap there. His technique there will be even worse. The bottom line is he was brought in as a developmental DL prospect because the Steelers say potential for him there. He will never be tried at OT.

  • joed32

    Lost Woods but signed Thomas to fill that role.

  • ApexSteel

    It’s a different argument because I wasn’t talking to you.

  • ApexSteel

    Obviously, but I have been saying I don’t think he will be a good DT. He has the size and physical ability of an OT. I believe the team should try him there. This is what I have been saying.

  • steeltown

    No one.. McLendon, Al Woods and then Fangupo was on the 53man roster but he almost never dressed

  • charles

    McKullers: 7th round gamble at a position of critical need. Worth taking a shot. Thomas has played nose most his time in the NFL, some have him at DE wtf?! Thomas KNOWN history is mediocrity at best. If McKullers can learn quickly, he certainly has some tools including what Maclendon does not (natural body size) and is a very good athlete. What a great find at an important position for LeBeau’s 3-4 if McKullers turns out to be able to collapse the centers position! Great move coach, Colbert.

  • Weiss Chad

    He has the same problem as mike Adams.He don’t get out of his stance quick enough.For Adams it allows guys to get right by him ,for McCullers it will allow guys to get up under him

  • Weiss Chad

    Out of all the draft prospects Imo this guy is the most likely to get cut outright..

  • Weiss Chad

    IMO he don’t even make this roster period and I wouldn’t even give him a spot on the practice squad.I don’t see this kid helping steelers at all..Just my oppinion .Im pretty sure Mclendons a lock to start..

  • charles

    LOL. I guess that is why they play the game. Did you ever see the ‘fridge’ play? He was also an AAU All America diver at Clemson. McKullers seems to be that prototype. I’ll let his game speak for him.

  • Steve

    Dan could be a Great draft pick up if coached correc

  • Steve

    Think your wrong on this one and time will tell.

  • Big White

    He signed a deal with Tennessee for 2.5 per year. I would have offered that plus a buck. He’s a pure nosetackle who really came on. Steelers usually sign his type to extensions, particularly as important as nosetackle is to our style of play. I think McClendon is in between positions. A pseudo end/nt hybrid if you will.

  • Matthew Marczi

    To be fair, none of us have actually seem him play at all yet. It’s far too early to say that he can’t even earn a practice squad spot.

  • steeltown

    I think Cam Thomas will kick over and play inside when needed, with Tuitt or Arnfelt stepping in at DE

  • joed32

    I would classify Thomas more as journeyman than mediocre. He’s had a whole lot more playing time than Woods and they came into the league the same year. He’s never going to be great but he can be OK. I think McKullers makes the PS, I’m pulling for him.

  • Weiss Chad

    You are a hundred percent right.Im only going on what I have seen of him in college.I hope I’m wrong,I really really do.Hell I hope he becomes an all pro.It sure wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong..I just don’t see it.I remember being all stoked about Hawthorne last year and that dude can’t even play in cfl or arena league.

  • Leon Mcnair

    And your clueless looke at dontario Poe and I bet u he beats out fangupo

  • Leon Mcnair

    That’s why u not the coach Mitchell will have him ready if he can play OT don’t u think they would have converted him already

  • Weiss Chad

    I’m clueless??lol.I forgot more about the steelers than you will ever know.Second like I said that’s the only thing he has going for him is beating out fangupo hotshot.Third Poe lit up the combine and is a far more superior athlete than mckullers .Fourth I’m clueless and your the one comparing Poe to mckullers lmao!

  • Leon Mcnair

    No he won’t

  • Weiss Chad

    Let’s hire you as the coach.lmao

  • Leon Mcnair

    I’m not comparing Poe to McCullers punk I said look at Poe he’s big too just like McCullers , been a steeler fan since 1973 , obviously they like him and he can be developed McClendon is not a real NT either but Mitchell made him so why can’t he make McCullers ?

  • Leon Mcnair

    Fangupo is straight garbage anyway McCullers has a shot a little coaching all he have to do is eat up blocks and let our linebackers attack , don’t u think he won’t command 2 people blocking him look at the logic

  • Leon Mcnair

    I think Adams problem was the stabbing from last year he wasn’t fully healed but he’s a good run blocker

  • charles

    What does your front 3 look like?

  • Weiss Chad

    That’s mr Weiss to you.I don’t care how long you have been a fan .Tell me besides his size ,what you like about mckullers .Better yet tell me what you like about his tape?Better yet tell me what he’s done at Tennessee that makes this kid so awesome in “your eyes”?You probably nothing about this kid and are only going on other peoples oppinion

  • Weiss Chad

    If he could rise up out of his stance fast enough yes.If he was faster and had better hand placement yes.All you got to do is get up under his shoulder pads every play and he is done.one guy cause even if he beats your center he is still to slow to make a play on the ball.I hope I’m wrong and you are right but I’m not changing my oppinion on that.lol

  • AndyR34

    But he said he wanted a chance to start…didn’t want the buck, probably wouldn’t have taken 50,000 of them. And I disagree about McClendon…I don’t know where you people get that his natural position is DE. Just as bad as saying JJ’s natural position is ILB! What I will agree with is that the Steelers are trying to move toward more athletic, more situational DL’s since they move from base 3-4 to sub-packages so much. If that means the same as psuedo end/nt hybrid, then so be it.

  • Steel PAul

    Wonder if we’ll see a 4-man front with Thomas and Mac in the middle. Might be interesting.

  • Leon Mcnair

    It’s all about coaching and Mitchell is good yes this guy is a project but on 3 years Mitchell will have him right all he have to do is hit the gym for strength and conditioning and running to get up to speed

  • Leon Mcnair

    McClendon is a DE and he was more effective as a DE than NT

  • Weiss Chad

    Adams is an excellent run blocker,maybe best we have.He is probably the worse pass protector also.I would never put him on left side but I believe he could give Gilbert a run for his money on the right side

  • Weiss Chad

    I liked woods also. I saw a lot of potential there

  • Weiss Chad

    I think he is about the same at both spots.Now that he has gained all this weight,I’m excited to see what he does.he definitely wasn’t all pro at nt but I think he did a decent job considering he was only on the field about 55 percent of the time

  • Weiss Chad

    I’m not saying he can’t.Im saying “I” don’t see it.If Mitchell was a miracle worker ta’amu would be starting right now.

  • AndyR34

    Show me where he is listed as a DE? Show me the stats that say he is more effective as a DE! I want proof, not your opinion.

  • ApexSteel

    Well obviously they want to see if he can play NT. I’m saying he can’t and he will be another wasted pick. I mean do y’all honestly think every player that was drafted will make the roster? They won’t and McCullers will be one of the ones that won’t. His body type is better suited for offensive tackle anyway.

  • Hp B

    I like Al too. A gamer with that nice mean streak
    He reminded me of Jerry Ball.

  • http://suspect5.bandcamp.com/ HardPunkKore

    When did McLendon ever get extensive end snaps? Few few snaps here and there as a spell guy isn’t a big enough sample size to say one way or the other. As long as he’s been on the Steelers roster, he has always listed as NT. But we all know how much Tomlin like position flexibility from all his guys. If Mitchell though he was a better end, the we probably would and should have drafted Nix instead of Tuitt.

  • joed32

    Thomas, McLendon, Heyward as the starters and hope that Tuitt can get into the rotation. After that camp will sort out the rest.

  • Leon Mcnair

    McCullers will make it as the back up NT I can’t see fangupo beating him out and plus the NT comp is weak even McClendon is not a good NT

  • Leon Mcnair

    He was playing DE before they put him at NT where u been ?

  • Leon Mcnair

    They had no choice but to put McClendon at NT when Hampton left taamu was suspended remember

  • ApexSteel

    McCullers isn’t good which is why he was a sixth round pick and he won’t go from sixth round pick to starter in one offseason. Besides that we rarely stay in that base 3-4. The reason McClendon was on the field so much is because he’s athletic enough to stay in them. This ain’t the same as 2005 when all Casey had to do was be fat in the middle of the defense teams don’t run the ball like that anymore.

  • Matthew Marczi

    McCullers’ college tape does leave a lot to be desired, certainly. The thing about him is that, in Tomlin’s words, he is a “size prospect”, in other words he was drafted for his physical attributes in the hopes that the team can harness his natural abilities. It could take a while if it happens at all, unfortunately, but I can see the temptation in taking the gamble.

  • http://suspect5.bandcamp.com/ HardPunkKore

    He was always the 3rd guy listed at NT behind Hampton and Chris Hoke. When Hoke retired McLendon was the primary back up. He was always a NT for us. Never a DE unless it was an emergency situation.

  • Weiss Chad

    I’m not disagreeing ,That’s all you can really do in the later rounds is take players who you can hope you can develop into something more than what you think your getting.Once in a while you will hit on one,but usually they are not so raw.I tottally understand the pick,the temptation and reasoning behind it.