ShareThis Page

Steelers rookie McCullers proving he's no pushover

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 10:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers defensive lineman Daniel McCullers (left) practices Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers defensive lineman Daniel McCullers practices Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers defensive lineman Daniel McCullers goes against center Maurkice Pouncey during practice Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers defensive lineman Daniel McCullers (74) makes a tackle during practice Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Latrobe.

Daniel McCullers could be another rookie whose time might come sooner rather than later.

McCullers played better than some expected during the Steelers' 20-16 loss to the New York Giants on Saturday. The 6-foot-7, 352-pound defensive lineman probably will get a longer look during training camp, mostly because nose tackle Steve McLendon was slowed by concussions last week.

“When Steve went down, the coaches wanted me to show what I have,” McCullers said after Monday's practice at St. Vincent. “I think I did pretty good overall. For most of the plays, I held up the linemen to let the linebackers make plays.

“I was just trying to run around and make plays. I have to adjust to the speed. That is the biggest thing. It was a huge difference when I first got out there. It hit me for a second, but I adjusted.”

McLendon sat out the preseason opener but returned to practice Thursday. He is expected to share duty with McCullers when the Steelers host the Buffalo Bills on Saturday at Heinz Field.

When asked if he doubts he'll be able to handle the more physical play in the NFL, McCullers responded, “No.”

The Tennessee product experienced some challenges. At times, he was out of position to defend the run. He countered by using his power and size to help seal run gaps, particularly after Rashard Jennings sprinted through the middle of the defense for a 73-yard, first-quarter score.

“I was out there working hard,” he said. “Learning the system is the big thing for (defensive coordinator Dick) LeBeau. I've got to take the time to study and learn the keys. I feel once I do that, I'll be pretty good.”

McCullers has needed words of encouragement during training camp. But assistant coaches remind him to keep his head up. On Thursday, he kept grinding as he dueled with center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Cody Wallace.

“Dan is a big body who's not going to get pushed around,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “He's got lots of potential, but now we're working on seeing that potential.

“He can hold his weight, but in our defense you have to be responsible. We need guys who can play from the head up. It's about understanding the little things like having all the gaps filled. If he doesn't play in games the way he practices, then you're not getting the most out of him.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.