Just yesterday, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reaffirmed that, historically, wrote that the nose tackle is the fulcrum that the success of the Steelers 3-4 defense rises and falls on the knees of the nose tackle. Neal Coolong, when he was still at of Behind the Steel Curtain pointed out that salary cap math says otherwise.
But the Steelers defense continues to evolve under Keith Butler and the nose tackle position is one of the most impacted positions. Just how much should that evolution impact the Steelers plans for the 2016 NFL Draft? Once again, it is time to find out.
Steelers Depth Chart @ Nose Tackle Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – the “Starter”
The Steelers sent a significant signal about the direction of their defense when the let Steve McLendon defect to the New York Jets via free agency, calculating that the money the New York Jets offered was too much to pay starter who would only see the field on 1/3rd of the snaps.
- Time will tell whether that was a wise, moneyball type move or not.
Right now all Steelers Nation knows is that the Steelers only have Daniel McCullers at nose tackle. Given McCuller’s massive size at 6’7”352 he seems like an ideal fit. Yet McCullers did not make much of a leap between his rookie year and sophomore campaign. McCullers played 105 snaps in 2015 or 9.5% of the time which is only increase of 3.1% after 2014.
- Word is that McCullers doesn’t seem to want it enough.
Perhaps that is true, perhaps McCullers will prove the doubters wrong. Either way, McCullers is only the starter by default not because he’s earned it.
Steelers Depth Cart @ Nose Tackle Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – Backups
In addition to McCullers, the Steelers currently list Lavon Hooks and Roy Philion as defensive tackles on their roster. Ricardo Mathews, recent free agent signee also has experience playing nose tackle.
Roy Philion caught on with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014, and spent time on the Bears and Lions practice squads in 2014. Lavon Hooks has spent time in training camp with the Green Bay Packers.
Even if McCullers defies the critics with a vengeance, this depth chart at nose tackle isn’t going to scare any offensive coordinator.
Steelers 2016 Draft Need at Nose Tackle and/or Defensive Tackle
The Steelers defense is evolving as the base 3-4 is being used less, while 4-2-5 alignments are being used more frequently. The Steelers could look at drafting a pure 4-3 tackle or they could opt to sign a nose tackle. Either way, the Steelers have an urgent need to fill their defensive tackle position with both quality and quantity.
In that light the Steelers 2016 draft need at nose tackle/defensive tackle at must be considered High.