He was the odds-on favorite from the start. His size, his story, it was impossible not to love Steelers sixth-round pick Dan McCullers, the mammoth nose tackle from Tennessee.
His technique is far from superior, but his length is other-worldly, and the level of strength he plays with is impressive, especially considering how much better he could be if he got a few things worked out.
Impressive physical traits and high potential; that's the start of a recipe for a Redman Award winner. That's exactly what the Tennessee Shade Tree is today, your 2014 Isaac Redman Award recipient.
This is the first official Redman Award given - a symbolic trophy presented to the most hyped Steelers player with two training camps or less who was drafted in the sixth round or later. The winner each year will represent the most daring and bold predictions made by Steeler Nation; the proverbial diamond in the rough who not only will complete his out-of-nowhere run to greatness starting this season, but will be an immediate starter and contributor to this year's team.
McCullers wins the award, but does he earn the fame and fortune a roster spot would merit? A solid enough performance Thursday in a 10-0 loss to Carolina may get him in as a late member of this team.
It would appear as if both McCullers and second-year defensive lineman Nick Williams got themselves on the team, especially considering the team's general lack of depth at nose tackle. McCullers has played primarily inside this preseason, and Williams has seen time at both, giving them position flexibility - a trait loved dearly by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin appeared annoyed by a question from Post-Gazette columnist and 93.7 The Fan host Ron Cook about McCullers, after the big man chased down a Panthers running back in the backfield. Cook asked something general in regards to McCullers, asking Tomlin for his impression. Tomlin grumbled, saying at the end of his generalities that McCullers "gets paid to do that."
It was an impressive play nonetheless. It stood out over 2014 Redman Award candidate Josh Mauro, who may be on the outside looking in for the roster this year. Mauro sits largely as the opposite of McCullers, lacking the definitive physical traits but standing out via technique and leverage. Mauro isn't far behind McCullers, and the roster could very well include both players this year - and if not, definitely next year.
Watch McCullers continue to grow, perhaps it's on the 53-man roster (which will be announced Saturday), perhaps it's the practice squad. Such is the life for the Redman Award winner. You'll always have that, Big Dan.