Steelers training camp preview: Important year for Javon Hargrave in middle of defensive line
The Tribune-Review will examine each position on the Steelers roster as they prepare to report for training camp July 25 at Saint Vincent. Today’s installment looks at the four nose tackles:
Javon Hargrave: After winning the starting job as a rookie in the 2016 camp, Hargrave has played two steady, yet unspectacular seasons in the middle of the defensive line. The Steelers would like to see Hargrave become more consistent — and dominant — in his play as a third-year starter.
Daniel McCullers: One of the offseason surprises was the Steelers bringing back McCullers for a fifth season. Perhaps they think new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar can push the right buttons to get Big Dan to live up to his potential.
Joshua Frazier: He played for Dunbar at Alabama, where he was a backup for his collegiate career. The Steelers saw enough to potential to use a seventh-round pick on Frazier, who could push McCullers for the final spot on the defensive line.
On camp roster
Parker Cothren: He played in every game at Penn State since his redshirt freshman year and was one of 13 players signed as undrafted free agents after the NFL Draft. Cothren had 23 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks as a senior and was honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Is there a need for a second nose tackle on the roster?
The Steelers kept McCullers around for the past four seasons, yet he logged just 13 defensive snaps in 2017. With the Steelers sprinkling in more 4-3 looks and with the abundance of subpackages they use, a true nose tackle is on the field for only about 30 percent of the defensive plays. Which is why versatility among Steelers defensive linemen is so important to earning a roster spot.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.