The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, along with the rest of the National Football League, has a defense which is evolving. No longer does a defense use their base 3-4, or 4-3, as their primary defensive alignment. Rather, sub packages and hybrid defenses have become all the rage. After all, it is a copy-cat league.
But when you have these changes, many times players who play a traditional position get lost in the shuffle. A position like nose tackle.
Last year it was common place to see Javon Hargrave running to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sideline when the team wanted to deploy their defensive sub packages where they wanted to get additional defensive backs onto the football field. However, in 2018 Hargrave might not be jogging to the sideline during these transitions, but might be joining the defensive end/tackle rotation with Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu and L.T. Walton.
“I think we’re just going to roll it this year,” Hargrave told Jacob Klinger of PennLive after an Organized Team Activities (OTAs) workout. “So there’s going to be a lot of rotational things and seeing what guys can do.”
Can the Steelers really expect Hargrave to be able to stand tall and play both nose tackle in some situations, and defensive end in others? It certainly is possible, and Hargrave is athletic enough to do just that. But he also has been taking his off-field nutrition and conditioning more serious too.
According to Klinger, Hargrave still weighs 305-pounds, but is a lot leaner and dedicated to his overall conditioning level. What did he do to make the change?
“Just eating better, just feeling better.”
There you have it...as simple as that. Nutrition aside, what Hargrave does bring the Steelers as an end is a very good pass rush. Hargrave, although built like Casey Hampton, is not a Hampton-like nose tackle. While Hampton would require at least two blockers almost every snap, Hargrave has been known to knife through the defensive line to put pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Pressure is nice, but stopping the run has been made paramount after the defense was gouged time and time again by opposing running backs.
What does this mean for other players? Players like Daniel McCullers, Joshua Frazier and the aforementioned L.T. Walton? It likely means they will have to prove their worth to remain on the roster. If the team is confident in Hargrave’s ability to show position flexibility, they won’t necessarily need to keep as many linemen as they have in the past. This means jobs will be lost. Either way, chalk it up to the changing of the times in the NFL, regarding defense, and it looks as if the Steelers are about to try turning Hargrave into a versatile weapon in this transition.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest and greatest regarding the black-and-gold as they continue to go through OTAs and offseason workouts.