Just like the Steelers are breaking the Max Starks Bailout habit, we should not expect nose tackle Casey Hampton to be back in Pittsburgh this season.
Barring injury, of course.
The notion of Alameda Ta'amu's recent Twitter foul-up being anything that would affect current plans for the nose tackle position in 2013 seem a longshot. Ta'amu hasn't even dressed for a game, and he is heading into minicamp without even the semblance of roster security.
If anything, the Steelers would have been just as likely to bring in a nose tackle in this draft anyway. With third-year Steve McLendon appearing to have the advantage in the battle for the starting position, Ta'amu was thought to be battling with Hebron Fangupo for back-up time, but the group itself has very little experience as it is.
That could suggest the team has sent a quiet message to Hampton to stay in shape and be prepared.
Outside of some usual apprehension over how a group of younger players will take to playing much more active roles, it isn't likely a concern. Yet.
It will be very difficult to find a player in the draft who could honestly expect to step in and play right away. Defensive players just don't do that on the Steelers. But it's really hard at this point to take any kind of feeling of optimism from either Ta'amu the player or Ta'amu the person. He's got a long way to go, and outside of that, you're looking at McLendon, who averaged single digit plays per game last year and Fangupo, an undrafted free agent who played at USC and BYU who hasn't seen the field at all.
Perhaps that does seem bleak, and drafting a player certainly won't add experience to the roster. However, the team no longer gets to enjoy the luxury Hampton's stability has afforded them nearly every season since he was drafted in the first round in 2001. Outside of a few torn ACLs, Hampton has been a fixture along that defense, and is the longest tenured player on the team.
It's possible if the Steelers don't like what they're seeing from the younger guys, they can bring Hampton back, but they'll have to move on at some point.
Is his heir apparent currently on the roster?