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2017 Offseason Positional Review – Defensive Tackle

The season might not quite be over for another couple of days, but 30 teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, have already hit offseason mode following their elimination, either prior to or during the playoffs. Pittsburgh got quite far this year, reaching the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2010

But before we get too deep into the offseason, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ roster as it appears to be shaping up as we look ahead to 2017.

As with almost every other team, the Steelers have already made some roster tweaks, signing several players to Reserve/Futures contracts, tenders, and other sorts of contract, , so here is a position-by-position look at how the team looks heading into the offseason.

Position: Defensive Tackle

Total Positional Figure: 2

Additions: 0

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

Javon Hargrave: I am sure that the Steelers would have liked to have kept Steve McLendon last year if they were able to work it out financially, but the Jets outbid them and likely even managed to pay him more than they would have wanted to in hindsight, considering the number of linemen they have.

But the result of that is that the Steelers put a premium on addressing the defensive tackle position, and they had the foresight to view the position with an eye toward flexibility, looking to find a player still capable of handling the traditional nose tackle responsibilities, but who was also versatile enough to work as an effective pass rusher as a nickel lineman.

They appear to have found just they in Javon Hargrave, who had a very encouraging rookie season, especially when you consider that he came from a small school and had some fundamental issues in his game to work on. But he came in and ‘started’ right away at nose tackle, and as injuries mounted, he was pressed into greater action.

His play against the run improved over the course of the season, as did his pass rusher. He recorded three sacks, including the playoffs, and recovered a fumble for a touchdown. And I think he is just getting started. If he gets enough snaps, he should be able to get five or so sacks a year.

Daniel McCullers: Daniel McCullers is virtually the polar opposite nose tackle as Hargrave. Though he’s not necessarily ‘large’ in the girth sense, he is very tall and generally massive. His athleticism for the position remains average, and he still struggles getting off the ball and playing too high, which allows him to be controlled. The coaching staff still holds out for the flashes when he actually mounts all of his abilities and makes the occasional play.

Offseason Strategy: McCullers is entering the final season of his contract, so it wouldn’t be a great shock to see the Steelers address the position, even with a modest free agent signing. They would certainly be interested in bringing McLendon back as a more versatile player if the Jets let him go. But ultimately I think they are likely to stick with the two options they have now.

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