As the Pittsburgh Steelers begin to navigate through this offseason, they will have to make some tough roster decisions in the coming weeks. With the team clearly over the salary cap, like last offseason, some veteran stalwarts have likely played their last game for the Steelers.Casey Hampton. The Steelers started to prepare for his departure last year when he was recovering from ACL surgery. Going into the season the team appeared to have some young depth at nose tackle between veteran Steve McClendon and rookie fourth round pick Alameda Ta’amu.
Some may argue that McClendon should have played more during the regular season. When he got a chance to show what he could do, the 6-4, 280-pound defensive lineman from Troy made a solid impression and made plays. If the team parts ways with Hampton, McClendon should be the early favorite to hold the position heading into camp.
Behind him, the Steelers have a question mark in Ta’amu, whose career sits in serious jeopardy after a mid-season arrest for assault, DUI, and multiple felonies. While the team stood behind him, and actually re-signed him late in the season, his legal situation remains unchanged. There is no mistaking that the 6-3, 348-pound defensive lineman is a massive man and should have the strength inside to compete with McClendon if he has a full grasp of the system.
General manager Kevin Colbert also did a marvelous job at quietly adding competition with a move that generally went unnoticed prior to the finale, when he claimed nose tackle Hebron Fangupo off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. Fangupo should be a familiar name to Steelers fans as the massive nose tackle was a pre-draft visitor in 2012, and could have been one of their late round selections had they not grabbed Ta’amu.
Fangupo is an over-aged prospect, but he has not faced a lot of competition to wear his body down. The 6-1, 331 pound mammoth was a major force for BYU, anchoring their defense against the run in 2011. In all, he recorded 26 tackles, six for a loss and regularly kept the linebacker corps clean to make play by clogging running lanes and forcing double teams. He built upon this solid season, with a solid combine performance where he completed an impressive 36 reps at 225, tied for second most among all defensive linemen.
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