When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Daniel McCullers out of the University of Tennessee, fans were excited to see what the man dubbed the “Shade Tree” would bring to the team as the new nose tackle.
But this giant of a man never lived up to the hype. Though he stuck around with the team throughout his rookie contract, he watched from the sideline more than he got onto the field to make a difference. This past offseason, with McCullers as a Unrestricted Free Agent, the Steelers brought him back with a new one year contract.
However, they very well might have called it a “last chance” contract.
The current depth chart along the defensive line is as follows:
Defensive End: Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton and rookie Joshua Frazier
Nose Tackle: Javon Hargrave, Daniel McCullers, but Alualu, Walton and possibly Frazier could swing to the nose tackle position if needed.
Talk about an uphill climb to make the team, and McCullers knows it.
“It’s a big training camp coming up,” McCullers acknowledged to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m coming in at my best shape and [showing] them I’m ready, just go out there and dominate every deal like I can. Take no breaks; if you get tired, keep going, keep pushing. Use my technique and stay low, that’s what they’re looking for.”
McCullers will have a new position coach leading the way in Karl Dunbar, and it will be up to Dunbar to do something John Mitchell never could — get McCullers motivated to do the things he says he was always going to do. Play low and use proper technique.
After 2017, a year in which McCullers played only 13 defensive snaps, he understands what lies ahead.
“Yeah, it [last season] was, but you live and you learn,” McCullers said. “You have to get better, improve each day and be the best you can be.”
“I want to be part of this team,” McCullers said. “I feel I can contribute a lot. I like the system, I like the plays, I feel I can make a big impact.”
McCullers may want to be a part of this team, but he will certainly have to earn it. Looking at the depth chart above, he will have to prove his worth as a nose tackle, and someone who actually has the potential of getting a helmet on game day, rather than remaining a fixture on the inactive list.
“I have to do it. I feel I can help this team a lot, help them get all the way to the Super Bowl.” McCullers added.
Will McCullers finally prove the doubters wrong? The odds might not be in his favor, but the Steelers have stuck with him all this time, which should stand for something. What do you think will be McCullers’ fate? Let us know in the comment section below!