Steve McLendon has been waiting in the wings for years now. That tends to happen when your playing behind long time stalwarts like Chris Hoke and Casey Hampton. Hoke and Hampton are now gone and it’s now McLendon’s time to shine.
McLendon’s journey to becoming a starting nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been anything but an overnight success. Steve McLendon signed as an undrafted free agent out of Troy in 2009. McLendon started off as many Steelers defensive linemen do, having to forget his college ways and learn things the Steeler way. McLendon became one of defensive line coach John Mitchell’s projects.
If you’re looking for a guy with a never say die attitude you have found your man. McLendon was cut from the Steelers a whopping 5 times in a time span from April 2009 to October 2010. Through all the adversity, McLendon never quit, he just worked harder. Steve McLendon made the 53 man roster October 30, 2010 and has stuck ever since.
Steve McLendon waited patiently and took every opportunity he could to learn from Hoke and Hampton. He listened to everything his coaches said and continued to work hard preparing as though he was a starter the whole time.
In 2012, defensive line coach John Mitchell praised Steve McLendon after everyone was counting McLendon out after the Steelers drafted NT Alameda Ta’amu in the fourth round “Everybody wants to discard McLendon. Let me tell you this, hold your opinion until the season is over,” Mitchell said. “I’m just saying keep your opinion until after the season, (then) you make the decision.”
The 2012 season would bring a bigger role for McLendon playing in 16 games. He would remain Hampton’s back up for the most part but did collect 7 tackles and 2 sacks.
Hampton, after his 12th season, was not resigned by the Steelers. Steve McLendon was a restricted free agent this off-season and the Green Bay Packers were pursuing to sign him. The Steelers wasted no time signing McLendon to a three-year deal blocking the Packers pursuits.
Now after years of hard work and patience, the Steelers starting nose tackle job is Steve McLendon’s for the taking. In an interview on Steelers.com McLendon spoke of how he has changed his way of thinking this season from good to great. His wish is not to be just good but to be great. He talked of the past Steelers and their greatness and he too strives to be great. Here are a couple quotes from that interview
“I want to be powerful and strong like Casey Hampton, I want to be able to be smart like Chris Hoke. I want to be quick like (Dallas’) Jay Ratliff.”
“I’m not coming here to be good, I want to be great.”
Steve McLendon has paid his dues. He has worked hard and persevered when lesser men would have gave up. His time is now and he seems up to the task. Steve McLendon is preparing for greatness.
Check out the rest of the Steve McLendon interview at http://www.steelers.com/video-and-audio/videos/Steve_McLendon_Interview/e5781596-157e-4e52-8b41-f482313488fd