The Steelers should keep their eye on a former nose tackle who recently departed from the team
A small note to look into as the Steelers entered training camp this week was their depth on the defensive line. Daniel McCullers has been a backup nose tackle with the team for the past three seasons, but early into camp he was running with the third team at that spot. The team has been rotating Leterrius Walton and Johnny Maxey, two players who profile as defensive ends as the backup nose tackle.
While this is certainly not a good sign for McCullers, it also likely means this team is currently missing a back up at the nose tackle position as they close in on their first preseason game. Enter Steve McLendon.
Steelers fans should thoroughly remember McLendon. McLendon spent his first six seasons in Pittsburgh, starting 32 games over that span. After 31 starts over his final three seasons with the Steelers, McLendon moved on, likely for more money with the New York Jets. Sure, he started ten games with the team and was fine when he was on the field. Still, the team shut him down for the final five games of the season with a hamstring issue. They used that time to see what they had in their 2015 seventh round pick Dion Simon.
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As McLendon enters camp, he is the fourth oldest player on the roster. The Jets are clearly in a rebuild, having cut veterans David Harris and Eric Decker so far this offseason. The team would save about $2.4 million this season and over $3.4 million next season to move on from McLendon, and the speculation surrounding his release has already begun amongst the New York media.
If McLendon is a camp casualty, a return to Pittsburgh would make great sense. McLendon would not be the first Steelers to test the waters of free agency, not pan out elsewhere, and find himself back on the roster. James Harrison and William Gay are two examples of this that are currently on the roster.
The team has also not been shy about adding veterans to the team late into training camp with the intentions of them making the team, see Ross Cockrell and Justin Gilbert from the past two seasons.
McLendon would have to surrender his starter designation. What Javon Hargrave did last season earned him a job for the foreseeable future. However, this is a player that will now be 32 years old by the end of the season. He is past his prime, and playing on a limited basis would likely do well in extending his career, and ensuring that the team is getting the most out of his snaps.
A second unit defensive line of McLendon, Walton and Tyson Alualu would potentially rival some of the league’s worst starting defensive lines on paper. To have this much depth tied into the defensive line would do wonders to how much consistent pressure the team can put on the opposing quarterback.
McLendon is not a free agent yet, but all of the sudden Jets camp should be something worth watching for every Steelers fan, as McLendon may be available soon, and the team could certainly carve out a role for him in the short term.