Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Steelers deploy a tandem rotation with Steve McLendon and Daniel McCullers at the nose tackle position.
Why it will happen: Fan should know Steve McLendon will enter training camp as the returning starter at the nose tackle (NT) position. The question then becomes where does second year giant Daniel McCullers fit into the defense as nose tackle? Could the Steelers deploy a defensive front which has McLendon and McCullers splitting time?
It would be a very wise decision if McCullers proves he has grown (not physically) from his rookie season to his second year. McCuller is the ultimate plug up the middle of the defense, while McLendon is better suited to knife his way through the offensive line to make plays in the backfield.
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If the Steelers were to deploy this 50/50 split with both nose tackles, it would be a smart move for several reasons.
First, it would keep McLendon healthier. McLendon has suffered several injuries in the past few seasons, and last year it was a shoulder injury which kept him out of the lineup. McCullers getting more snaps would only help keep McLendon fresh and healthy. Second, McCullers would be getting more snaps which ultimately will better his overall game. Lastly, with the two players encompassing unique skill sets, it will benefit the team to take advantage of each of their unique skills to help better the defensive front.
McCullers will have to show he is capable, but a healthy split between the two nose tackles could be the perfect scenario for the Steelers' defense going into 2015.
Why it won't happen: As stated above, McLendon is the starter entering camp, and there is no reason to think that will, or should, change despite strides made by McCullers in 2014. McCullers should make the 53-man roster, but really only as a depth player who will be used to spell McLendon when he needs to come out of the game.
Outside of McCullers still being an extremely raw player who truly lacks the awareness and technique to be more than just a depth player as a second year pro, McLendon is the man who has the best rapport with fellow defensive linemen when it comes to communication and the overall understanding of the Steelers 3-4 defensive scheme.
If McLendon can stay healthy, and that is a big 'if', McCullers should continue to learn by spelling McLendon when necessary, but nothing more than that.
Keys: The biggest key to this scenario coming to reality is McCullers' development. If McCullers', who has slimmed down and is in better shape this offseason, is able to prove to coaches in training camp he is deserving of more time on the playing field, the team would be wise to keep the duo in a rotation depending on what the opposition is attempting to do. If McCullers hasn't shown many strides, then it could be more McLendon than McCullers at the nose tackle position in 2015.