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Steelers

Steelers' Daniel McCullers eager to 'get a hat,' prove worth against Browns

Chris Adamski
| Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, 6:26 p.m.
Steelers nose tackle Daniel McCullers has barely played this season but is expected to see a bigger role Sunday against the Browns.
Steelers nose tackle Daniel McCullers has barely played this season but is expected to see a bigger role Sunday against the Browns.

Of all the players who have been on the Steelers roster for more than a week, Daniel McCullers trails only backup quarterbacks Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs in snaps this season.

McCullers has played only a fraction of the snaps that even James Harrison did before Harrison's much-ballyhooed release.

That will change Sunday in the Steelers' regular-season finale.

“I'm getting a hat,” McCullers said, using Mike Tomlin parlance for being activated for the game, “and I am going to go out there and show them my abilities and that I'm capable of making plays.”

The big defensive linemen has been active for only six games this season (not since Nov. 16), and he has appeared in only three games. He has played 11 defensive snaps and four on special teams.

That's a less-than-ideal situation for a four-year veteran, particularly one who is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency this spring.

“It is frustrating,” the 352-pound McCullers said. “But you know it's a process, and you've got to work hard and show the coaches you can play, so this is a chance I can do that.”

McCullers will play because the Steelers (12-3) are holding out or limiting some of their important veterans, including defensive lineman Cam Heyward, against the Cleveland Browns (0-15) because chances are slim of improving upon the No. 2 playoff seed the Steelers hold.

It was in last year's regular-season finale at home against Cleveland that McCullers had arguably his best game as a pro: a career-high five tackles and his only full NFL sack.

McCullers said he has not been given a reason why he hasn't played this season. He gradually had earned more playing time during his first three NFL seasons since being a sixth-round pick in 2014. Last season, McCullers appeared in all 16 games (starting one) and played 182 snaps.

After losing the top nose tackle job last season to Javon Hargrave, McCullers has been buried on the depth chart since 2017's training camp. The Steelers barely even used him against run-heavy teams, but they kept him on the roster all season.

“I have been working hard in practice; I feel like I am in good shape,” McCullers said.

“I can play nickel, I can play whenever they need to play me. I can push the pocket. I can make plays. It's time to show it. I've just got to be ready and take advantage of an opportunity.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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