PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 16: Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars tries to outrun the tackle of Ziggy Hood #96 and Steve McLendon #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 16, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 17-13. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
NFL Around The League writer (and BTSC friend) Brian McIntyre wrote an interesting piece on Steelers NT Steve McLendon, expounding on the work done by Tribune-Review writer Mark Kaboly. The subject of both articles was to show McLendon as a potential starter among the Steelers defensive line.
They both certainly make a good case for it, but they seem to be missing the forest for the trees. Odds are excellent McLendon will be the starter in Week 1.
Kaboly quoted an aggressive-sounding Steelers defensive line coach Johnny Mitchell, who is vouching for McLendon:
"Everybody wants to discard McLendon. Let me tell you this, hold your opinion until the season is over. I'm just saying keep your opinion until after the season, (then) you make the decision."
I don't think I need to wait until the season is over. McLendon is reputed to be a workout warrior, and has studied the defense diligently in his three years in the league. He's always had quickness but he's been adding power, reportedly weighing in at 325 pounds.
The drafting of Alameda Ta'amu could, to some, dampen enthusiasm toward McLendon, but the fact is McLendon had been filling in for Hampton much of last season, after NT Chris Hoke's season was ended due to a neck injury.
Coach Mitchell isn't going to give out starting jobs via the media, but the fact he went as far as he did to praise McLendon only suggests the job is his, and the expectations for him are high.