John Mitchell Explains Why L.T. Walton Was Moved To Nose Tackle

If you’ve been following along with the daily Pittsburgh Steelers training camp practice reports that our very own Alex Kozora has been filling, you already probably noticed that third-year defensive lineman L.T. Walton is working almost exclusively as the second-team nose tackle and thus ahead of fourth-year defensive lineman Daniel McCullers. In an interview a few days ago on Steelers Nation Radio, veteran defensive line coach John Mitchell talked a little about Walton’s move and why it happened.

“Here’s a guy [Walton] that we moved from defensive end to nose tackle, because we felt like right there, hey, he’s a good football player and on Sunday we want him to have a hat and the way that he can get a hat instead of being the fourth end, he had a chance to compete against Big Dan [McCullers],” Mitchell said.

“So, those guys are going to battle it out, but L.T.’s a very intelligent player and he’s a player, if you’re the fifth defensive lineman, you’ve got to be able to play end and nose and he’s capable of doing both. But, him and Dan are going to battle it out and we’re going to let the chips fall where they may and see who’s who.”

Mitchell had more positive things to say about Walton, who was originally selected in the sixth-round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Central Michigan.

“L.T.’s a guy, first of all, he’s as very intelligent player and when Cam [Heyward] and [Stephon] Tuitt both got nicked up and couldn’t play [last season], we had to play him and he came in here and he played really well for us in the closing five or six games and going into the playoffs.”

Mitchell’s praise for Walton, in addition to talking about him moving to nose tackle, is obviously not great news for McCullers. We’ve known for some time now that McCullers’ time in Pittsburgh is likely to end soon and barring injuries happening on the defensive line the remainder of the summer, it likely will.

So, what else does this all mean? Well, assuming McCullers loses the backup nose battle to Walton, there’s a good chance that second-year defensive end Johnny Maxey will ultimately make the final 53-man roster as the team’s sixth and final defensive lineman and ultimately be a prime candidate to not dress for games unless injuries happen.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Easy to figure out why. Walton is a growing de but big dan had underwhelmed at nt.

  • LucasY59

    Its a good idea to get both Walton and Maxey snaps at NT, getting the depth players some experience now could help them later, and versatility makes them more valuable, I dont know if I would drop McCullers this yr (but it could definitely happen, and he will be gone after this season for sure, they can use a late draft pick on a traditional big NT next draft) Dan could be the inactive 6th DL and it could be a good thing to have a big space eater on the roster just in case (the hateriots made good use of their big guy in the AFCCG) Maxey can be the PS guy again

  • Michael James

    Really easy to read between the lines: “Walton is a better player than McCullers, he can play NT and he will replace McCullers as our NT backup.”

  • NickSteelerFan

    Love this so much! I think he makes our depth much better in the middle and allows us to keep another, more athletic DE/DT like Maxey or Hooks

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I look forward to the preseason games just to see how these camp battles work out. Three to watch for this Friday: Walton, Maxey & McCullers. Who does what with the snaps they get.

  • Steve Johnson

    Well, it’s about Damm Time. Keep the best 53 players, and we all know Big C hasn’t lived up to the Coaches expectations.

  • Steve Johnson

    Yep! Can’t wait to see these guys this Friday.

  • nutty32

    When you’re the biggest dude on the field and still get pushed around, welp what can you say, really?

  • pittfan

    Nothing that hasn’t been said already. Shade Tree had his chance. I think the writing is on the wall.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Correct. And when there is a possibility of adding one at another position group, subtracting Baby Huey is an easy fix.

  • H.K. northern cali

    Look forward to the growth of this d. Should be a lot better than last yr.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Yeah, but kinda sucks putting all that time and patience into a guy and have him come up short in the desire department.

  • NW86

    I’m not a big fan of the “desire” narrative that has grown around here. I don’t think anyone knows how much desire big Dan has, some have speculated that he just doesn’t have the killer instinct on the field, and that has grown into the notion that he just doesn’t want it bad enough or is a little lazy.

    Bottom line is that he hasn’t been terrible (e.g. Cam Thomas) when he is on the field. But he is a definite step down from the starters when it comes to making impact plays, and he hasn’t been able to improve much from his rookie year. We all knew that he was a speculative late-round pick. The Steelers have hit on a few of those late round/undrafted speculative types (Vince Williams, Ramon Foster, Villanueva), but you can’t expect that too often. He is the tallest NT in the league, which isn’t always an asset when it comes to trying to get the leverage to hold the point of attack against 2 blockers. Big and tall guys like that always have a little more trouble moving too, and they make big targets for blockers. He hasn’t been able to overcome all that – we don’t know if it’s a lack of desire or if he has just hit his limitations. He may or may not make the roster this year – if he doesn’t, it’s because the Steelers found a couple of players who are a little better. It’s not going to make me dislike the guy, call him lazy, or lament that the Steelers screwed up and wasted a pick. He has made it further than most 6th-round picks.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Great Info Dave! Guess i’ll burn my McCullers jersey tonight sounds like he’s just going thru the motions until the final cutdown but glad to see LT step up.

  • Zarbor

    Looks like the train is moving on without big Dan. Everybody is hustling to get on the train but it looks like big greasy is still at the 7-Eleven ordering big bites. I’ve moved on since last year, looks like the Steelers are moving on this year.

  • 2winz

    at least it was under a rookie contract and not a pricey free agent like albert haynesworth was

  • 2winz

    well said!

  • razaard2

    I don’t think this is about McCullers at all. It’s just Walton showed he can play, and they’re trying to get him involved. And the weakest link between wreck it, tuitt, j wobble and alualu, is obviously McCullers. I think it’s a great position group, with talent at the top and great depth