The Steelers have, for over a decade, benefited on first and second down with the run-supporting anchor of Casey Hampton owning the middle of the offensive line.
His replacement in 2013, Steve McLendon relishes the idea of playing that role, but he wants more.
He wants third downs as well. Specifically, he wants to get after the quarterback, and he doesn't care from where on the field he starts to do that.
In an interview with Tribune-Review reporter Mark Kaboly, McLendon said "I tell them not to take that pass rush from me because I can do that, I can rush the passer. I tell (defensive line coach John Mitchell) that all the time, but he won't let me."
Kaboly mentioned these comments (or some variation of them) to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who seemed to agree to at least give him a chance, provided he earns that opportunity.
"If he shows that he is capable of us helping us through three downs, I'll utilize him," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "So tell him I said that."
It seems he has already, and Tomlin is aware of it.
According to Pro Football Focus, McLendon played 139 snaps last year, with 73 of them coming on passing plays. McLendon subbed in sub-packages last year, the nickel and dime, and appeared to be primarily rushing the passer from the inside. He wasn't moved outside, but his quickness against centers and guards was utilized, albeit sparingly, last season.
He registered three sacks and two QB hurries in very limited action last year.
Whether the Steelers would put him outside on passing downs is a good question for them to have to answer. The Steelers pass rush has sagged into average territory after dominating up front in 2010. They have just 72 sacks over the last two years, right in the middle of the NFL in that category.
Any help they could get to put the quarterback on the ground, or more specifically, putting pressure on the passer, would be a welcome change, whether that player starts outside or in.