Labriola: ‘You Can Just Leave Javon Hargrave On The Field’

It will not be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin work in their first OTA session, which, needless to say for the regular readers here, will be a significant occasion, and will include a lot of firsts with respect to the level of football activity and public access to players and coaches that we will be exposed to. It’s basically the appetizer leading up to training camp.

One of the most exciting things to look forward to about the OTA sessions is to begin to hear reports about the developments of the young players on the roster, particular those who are expected to play an important role for the team in the following season, a bigger role than the year before.

This is especially true of players heading into their second season, which is when players are expected to show their most substantial growth from one year to the next. Their rookie season is filled with a lot of thinking and learning and processing, not to mention conditioning and training. It all starts to come together the next year.

One of the players I expect most are looking forward to seeing especially will be second-year defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, whom the Steelers made a third-round draft pick last year in the 2016 NFL Draft. While he instantly became their starting nose tackle, the position doesn’t log a lot of snaps, and he only began to play more due to injuries later in the year.

Thinking about Hargrave had me tracking backward and thinking about what Bob Labriola said about the small-school product recently on a live segment conducted for the team’s website. While he didn’t spend a lot of time recapping his rookie year, he largely focused on his future and what he brings uniquely to the team.

“Javon Hargrave in the middle of the defensive line is a guy who can give the Steelers defense some pass rush”, he said, “and that’s not a usual, typical skill that you find in an interior defensive lineman”. The Steelers tried to find that in Steve McLendon, but he never quite became the mainstay pass-rusher they were hoping for.

“When you get one who can give you that”, Labriola continued, “they’re extremely valuable because so much of football on the defensive side is played in sub-packages now”. He explained that “instead of having to hustle guys on and off the field, especially interior defensive linemen when you go from run-down situations to pass-down situations, or from run-based personnel to pass-based personnel, you can just leave Javon Hargrave on the field and he’s able to contribute in both of those situations”.

This is precisely the sort of skill set that the Steelers were looking for when they drafted Hargrave, and he gave enough glimpses of that skill set during his rookie season to get people excited, including three sacks. But he still has much more room to grow, and that is exciting.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Due to the ‘second year jump,’ I’m excited to see how Davis, Burns, and Hargrave develop. Last year they had to make a definite adjustment to NFL speed, power, and talent while also learning new schemes. This year they can focus far more on improving techniques and performance. If they all improve, the defense could grow to be quite solid.

  • Ace

    Grave’s is a stud. Wish he’d change his number tho.

  • Mark

    Yes, I wish Butler would alter his style to the talent. Taking Hargraves, Harrison or Dupree, Tuitt, Heyward off the field on passing downs is ridiculous. We should never have to rush more than 5, our best should be rushing 4 with 5 playing man to man and the 2 safeties taking away the deep routes or best players (ie. Gronk, Edlemen, AJ Green, Julio Jones, Dez, etc…)

  • falconsaftey43

    Well this would be the first year he’d have the opportunity to do that so we’ll see.

  • Thomas

    He has done a lot last season. This front seven will be at least top 10, maybe top 5 by years end.

  • John Noh

    So far so good with this 2016 draft class. Really looking forward to seeing Artie and Sean’s progression this year.

  • Dorian James

    Yeah, I’m no fan of just two down linemen. 3-3-5 would be my preference when you have 3 good D linemen

  • Carl Mendelius

    To me there are three key players, not with the team last season, that must make an impact if the Steelers are to challenge NE next season:
    1. TJ Watt, if he does not contribute at least in the final stretch of the season it would mean Brady would be pressure free.
    2. Senquez Golson must prove Colbert right when he drafted him as a 2nd rounder and slow down Edelman and Amendola.
    3. Martavis Bryant has to prove he can be a consistent contributor in the red zone and beyond.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I personally am a fan of the Seattle 4-3 defense (for multiple reasons).

    1) There’s no confusion. Their DL’s job is always the same. Attack the QB. If the opponent runs, that’s what their 3 LB’s are for. The DL try to get off their blocks and slow them down. But the LB’s are fast and fill the gaps. All of their front 7 are “downhill attackers.” Whereas the Steelers 3-4 DL are often trying to hold the point and read the play. And then we end up with 240 pound ILB’s trying to beat 300 pound OL’s.

    2) Seattle tends to draft bigger, longer, more physical, press man CBs, which allows their DL an extra second to get to the QB. More importantly it takes away (or at least limits) the bubble screen and quick slant, which can tire out your defense by inflicting “death by a thousand needle pokes.”

    3) It’s great that Hargrave can stay on the field all 3 downs, as long as they are short drives. What happens when he gets tired? Seattle has 8 DL that they rotate constantly. Same job. New part. Keep them fresh. Keep them attacking. We don’t really have a Hargrave substitute.

    In theory, a front line of Tuitt + Hargrave + Heyward should be able to get consistent interior pressure. I certainly hope so, but we’ll see. All I know is after spending 1st picks on Heyward + Dupree + Watt, and a 2nd and 3rd on Tuitt and Hargrave, I don’t want a hear another peep out of ANYONE asking us to spend another 1st round draft pick on our front 7 for at least 3 years. Our secondary has ONE first rounder and a bunch of mid rounders. So if this is your plan (Colbert, Tomlin, Butler) it better work.

  • corduroyninja

    I never really thought about how some numbers seem to be good and some bad. Like when Bud Dupree got 48, everybody hated it, but Polomalu at 43 was just great. What makes some numbers bad?

  • Taylor Williams

    They tried that already with JJ, tuitt, heyward, moats/chick. Granted JJ and moats aren’t starter material.
    I agree that they have to get hargrave on the field as much as possible.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I actually like when players think outside the box with their number. I love Alvin’s 48 especially for an OLB.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I hate the two down linemen lineup. It’s just got to wear Hayward and Tuitt down to nothing.

  • Gautama Om

    This is why I have been saying that we need to draft at least 1 more DLlineman in the draft but Noooo; that includes Steelers fans. We are short of 1 or 2 more good DLinemen from being a great defense. And yes I love rotations; a few teams are already doing it .

    It doesn’t have to be 50/50 rotation but like 65/35% rotation between our starters and backups , if we had the personnel to do it which we don’t because we don’t value keeping our starters fresh .

  • dany

    I love his number, it’s the number he’s always used but reversed 🙂

  • Big White

    Very fun to watch.

  • Rusted Out

    Bryant is going to be the man day one. Give Watt few games to get his feet wet, but he’s going to have a strong rookie campaign. Golson on the other hand… I believe is going to be a flop. I say this because I have never seen a player come back in their 3rd year and be a major contributor after never playing an NFL snap. I also don’t think Golson is being relied upon to even be a key player. The Steelers drafted two new DB’s in hopes that one would take the reigns in the nickle.

  • Alan Tman

    Didn’t he Have two or three concussions last year, with two of them lasting two weeks or more?

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Well, the Steelers brass were looking at Chris Wormley DL (Michigan) pretty hard before the draft, so somebody was listening to you. If he would’ve fallen to our 3rd round pick I think we would’ve taken him.

    The problem with the Steelers right now is they have been playing a certain defensive scheme for 25 years. They’ve had a top ranked defense multiple times in years past with that scheme. They’ve trained their coaches around it. They’ve drafted and built around it. And it’s hard to let go.

    They think if they can just get the “right” players the scheme will work again. But after watching the AFCCG, we would need pro bowlers at nearly every position to make that scheme work (IMO).

    The greatest defense in the history of the NFL was the Steel Curtain 4-3 defense. I believe we should make an effort to rebuild it.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’d really like to see Hargrave on the field a bunch more. Great addition to this team!

  • Carl Mendelius

    I watched Golson in college and he can really play, the question is his health because he know the defense already. Lets hope his body gives him a chance.

  • pittfan

    No I don’t think so. He got his bell ring once but was back on the field. I may be wrong but I don’t think he missed any games over concussion

  • pittfan

    Sutton may be an upgrade over what Golson could bring. They are both rooks too

  • pittfan


  • Runamok

    I agree that we need to get one more stud d-lineman… they need a rotation to keep guys fresh. If we are counting on Hargrave to bring the pressure we are going to have along season against the Cheifs, Ravens, cheaters etc….

    This defense has always been the most effective when they play with a lead and a ball control offense. Hopefully the return of Martavis will allow the defense to play with a lead so that they can pin their ears back and rush, creat havoc and force turnovers. Thid is where i was really hoping that Peppers would have fallen to us in rd 1…. but hey, Watt ain’t so bad either…