There were many people in the Steelers’ Nation that were close to a coronary earlier this week when it looked all too possible that nose tackle Steve McLendon could sign with the Green Bay Packers. I know I had a serious moment that probably reminded my wife of this classic scene to be sure but my cooler head has prevailed.
The Steelers announced that McLendon had signed a three-year deal with the team and will be expected to be the starting nose tackle when the Steelers open at home against the Tennessee Titans in September.
Despite the fact the Steelers are razor-close to the salary cap now, this was a must-have signing for two important reasons. First of all, there was no way in the world they could have gone into training camp with Alameda Ta’amu at number one on the depth chart at nose tackle.
Ta’amu’s lack of experience is one thing but the possibility also remains that he may be suspended by Roger Goodell for his drunk driving episode last October.
There other reason why signing McLendon was so crucial is that now that Steelers can go back and focus on other areas of need and want in the NFL Draft which is less than a week away. Had McLendon signed in Green Bay or anywhere else for that matter, nose tackle would have immediately become a top priority.
There is an argument to be made that they will look to take one already but perhaps not until the late rounds. Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense requires a nose tackle that can do multiple things and that isn’t always something you have readily available in the draft.
Some of the potential nose tackles expected to go early are Jesse Williams of Alabama, Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State and Jonathan Jenkins of Georgia. While these three are not expected by most experts to go in the first round, they should be there in the second and potentially the third.
With McLendon back though I don’t see any of these three being there when and if the Steelers decide to go in this direction.
Thankfully, we can now go back to wondering if it will be a wide receiver, tight end, linebacker or safety taken with our first or second round picks. Or something else altogether….
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.