A space-eater like Thomas could help justify moving Steve McLendon to defensive end

Justin K. Aller

It's all theory and speculation, but connecting the dots between the possible addition of 330-pound nose tackle Cam Thomas and Steve McLendon's quickness and burst, the notion of moving McLendon to the 5-technique resurfaces for discussion.

A popular notion among fans after nose tackle Steve McLendon signed a three-year deal with the team in 2013 was to groom him to play defensive end, while hoping to get some kind of return on troubled 2012 fourth round draft pick Alameda Ta'amu.

That never quite materialized - Ta'amu was cut by the Steelers in training camp (and started three games for Arizona last season), while McLendon assumed the nose tackle position. He wasn't terrible, but he wasn't great. The Steelers run defense as a whole, though, was really not great.

That is likely the reason the Steelers are looking to bring in former Chargers nose tackle Cam Thomas - not to wholly replace McLendon, but possibly to move him to defensive end.

Tribune-Review reporter Alan Robinson floated the idea Thursday, not exactly re-inventing the wheel, but providing good context behind Thomas's meeting with the team today. The Steelers will get down to the brass tacks with Thomas, and in that, possibly find the real bulky-space-eating kind of presence usually seen from the 0-technique position. McLendon is quick off the snap and has great strength - attributes that help him in his pass rush, which is his best trait.

He's good enough of an athlete where one might think he could make the transition outside, but his length isn't ideal for the position. Still, with a more gap-penetrating scheme in Pittsburgh - something that resurrected the career of Cameron Heyward last year - moving McLendon to end and having him look to get after the quarterback as opposed to occupy blockers inside may simply be playing to his strengths.

It would help the Steelers re-discover the depth the team once had along its defensive line. Ex-Bills defensive end Alex Carrington met with the team Thursday and he may be brought in to help with the defensive end rotation as well, considering the Steelers lost both Ziggy Hood and Al Woods in free agency.

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