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Daniel McCullers takes confidence from his first taste of NFL action

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The Shade Tree is feeling good after his first NFL game, even if it was only preseason.

When the Steelers drafted the 6-foot-7, 350 pound Shade Tree, or as his mother calls him Daniel, they knew they got a guy with huge potential.

They also knew they got a guy who was, by all accounts, quite raw in comparison to some of his peers. It was expected that defensive line coach John Mitchell was going to have to strip him right down uand build him back up with proper leverage, pad level and hand placement ingrained in his head for the rest of his days. This process has been known to take years.

So in that context, McCullers' training camp can be characterized thus far as a mildly pleasant surprise. He's flashed some tantalizing potential, enough to earn him some significant snaps during the Steelers first preseason game against the Giants.

Speaking with Teresa Varley of, McCullers said he came away reasonably happy from his first real taste of NFL action.

"I thought I did pretty good overall," said McCullers. "Most of the plays I held up the linemen and helped the linebackers make the plays."

The preseason game performed its primary task, it gave McCullers a feel for live action and let him know some things he has to work on.

"I have to just adjust to the speed," said McCullers. "That is the biggest thing. It was a huge difference when I first got out there. That was the biggest thing for me, the speed. I think once I get it down pat the next couple of days I will be good. It hit me for a second, but I adjusted."

As a rookie defensive lineman in a system notoriously difficult to learn, McCullers has certainly had an uphill battle since being drafted by the Steelers. He still has a week of training camp left as well as three preseason games to show his worth to the Steelers coaching staff and make the final 53-man roster.

During that time, he knows what he has to work on.

"...learning the system," said McCullers. "That is the biggest thing. Coach (Dick) LeBeau puts in a lot of plays so you have to take the time to study and learn your keys. Once you do that you will be pretty good.

"I just have to continue to work on my technique, my pad level, learn the system and keys. Once I get that down pat I feel like I can contribute to the team."