Dan McCullers used more, shows versatility in 6th Steelers camp | TribLIVE.com

Dan McCullers used more, shows versatility in 6th Steelers camp

Chris Adamski
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Dan McCullers-Sanders (93) goes through drills during an NFL football practice at the team’s training facility, Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Pittsburgh.

Big Dan is no longer just the big man taking up space in the middle of the defense.

In his sixth Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, Dan McCullers is being used more often and getting more reps than he typically did in his previous five. While his time at nose tackle gradually has decreased since he was drafted in the sixth round in 2013, McCullers seemingly is getting more reps than ever in the nickel defense at Saint Vincent.

“I am out in the nickel more, playing more, working on getting the plays down flat,” McCullers said last week from training camp.

“(Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar) says, ‘You’re doing well,’ and he’s putting me in there more and letting me get more reps. So my thing is just keep doing good and getting as many reps as I can.”

McCullers was given a two-year deal from the Steelers soon after he entered free agency in March after a season when he played 111 defensive snaps (10.6% of the total). The previous two camps, McCullers barely saw reps, in part because they use the base defense less than one-third of the time and in part because Javon Hargrave has been very good as the starting nose tackle.

But now McCullers is regularly in a second wave on the defensive line after Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward and Hargrave and alongside the likes of Tyson Alualu.

McCullers frequently serves as a tackle in the nickel along with Tuitt or Heyward.

“Big Dan, he’s a phenomenal football player,” Tuitt said. “He’s a big guy, too. He can do some things naturally that a lot of other people can’t do out here. For him to have this opportunity to showcase his skills more is a tremendous opportunity for him.”

McCullers playing in the nickel signifies the Steelers don’t just view him as a space-eating run-stopper and think he can rush the passer.

“I would just say because I get a good push — that’s what they like the most, getting that push up the middle and making that quarterback move off his spot. If I keep doing that, hopefully they give me all the reps.”

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Steelers
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