Interesting proposition. While I think they can view McLendon as a nose tackle and a defensive end (in sub packages) and get him reps in both positions, it does make an interesting point to suggest keeping three pure nose tackles is a bit of a stretch. - nc
I've been reading through all of the roster projections lately and have noticed that there's a lot of 3 NT rosters out there. I think the active roster will have no more than 2 guys who are solely nose tackles. Considering the number of snaps out of this position it seems ridiculous to carry 3. Considering that we've gone with 5 WR or 3 Safeties in the past. That's effectively 25-50 percent reserve in players (Needing 4 WR and 2 S on the field at once). Why would we have 200 percent reserve in nose tackles?
To review the players:
Casey Hampton: Restructured his contract to stay with the team. Coming off an ACL, currently on PUP. Conventional wisdom is that since he restructured, the gentlemanly thing for the misters Rooney to do would be to keep him around. He's clearly at the twilight of his career however. For a big guy coming off the injury, nothing is certain. There's been a lot written about how he only needs his knees to be 85% etc. Considering his issues being hit low on doubleteams last year, I can't say that I can buy that.
Steve McLendon: Curiously mis-listed on the official roster at 6-4 280 pounds for his entire career. He set the record straight in the media this spring claiming to weigh in at a lean 325 pounds. He's filled in capably for Casey when called upon. When Ta'Amu was drafted, DL coach Mitchell cautioned all and sundry to not look past McLendon. So he's a starter quality, dirt cheap young player with some experience, a good work ethic and the respect of the coaches.
Alameda Ta'Amu: This off season Ta'Amu started out as the must-have of the Steeler faithful. As a size/weight prospect he looks ideal for the role. Further studies (Baylor and Stanford games?) questioned his tenacity and conditioning. At the time he was seen as a first round prospect and seemed to quickly pick up the overvalued tag. At the Sr. Bowl he looked good at times in drills but wasn't head and shoulders above the rest. Post combine he seemed like the odd man out in the mock drafts as the Dontari Poe love affair burned long and strong right up to the draft. Ta'Amu slid to the 4th and the Steelers moved up a little to nab him. He certainly has the upside to be a future starter but he has the question marks to be a draft day bust as well. As a good player on a terrible Washington team, it's hard to say what we have in this guy.
Al Woods: 6-4, 307 Woods is more of a DE backup prospect but he might look to fill a Chris Hoke type role and be a backup across the line. He was originally drafted by the Saints and was cut at the end of camp. He signed with the Steelers PS then but was picked up by Tampa who cut him the following year. He was then picked up on waivers successively by the seahawks then the Steelers. He seems to garner some respect as a potential backup and should be in the mix with Corbin Bryant at the last DE spot. Some position flexibility on his resume might serve him well.
Kade Weston: Third year player signed off the street in January. He was drafted by the pats in '10 then spent the season on IR. He spent last year on the Colts PS. At 6-5 315 he has the size more typical of a 4-3 NT or a LDE in the 3-4. He's most likely just a camp body.
Ziggy Hood: not a contender for the role but a possible fill-in if needed for a couple of weeks. He's worked at the position this spring.
I think the likely course is that as Hampton as a well seasoned vet, knows what he needs to do to prepare and play so the team can afford to leave him on the PUP without worrying about him missing a beat. McLendon is clearly a lock as the only seasoned and healthy guy. The performance of Ta'Amu in camp is critical to how they handle Casey. If Ta'Amu flames out entirely, probably Hampton is off the PUP before the end of camp. Otherwise, I think they let Casey ride on the PUP in case of Injury then when it's time to activate him or release/IR him then they need to make the call on who to keep. Hard to guess whether Ta'Amu would make it though waivers to the PS but it seems doubtful. If I GMed another team and needed a good 3-4 D-lineman, I'd be sniffing all over the Steelers waiver wire.