The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long and storied tradition when it comes to dance. Hall of Famer Lynn Swann was able to contort his body to make those insanely athletic catches we see on the highlight films thanks to a childhood spent studying ballet. Recently, future Hall of Famer Hines Ward competed on “Dancing With The Stars” and came away with the MirrorBall Trophy despite no formal dance training whatsoever.
Taking the “Twinkle Toes” mantle from those men is nose tackle Steve McClendon, who recently revealed he also practices ballet during the off-season. After a decade of Casey Hampton anchoring the middle of the Steelers’ defensive line, it’s now McClendon’s time to step up. For whatever reason, McClendon didn’t get a whole lot of playing time last year despite signing a three year contract and the team getting very little production out of Hampton, Ziggy Hood, and Cam Heyward. Heyward came into camp slimmed down hoping to finally make sort of positive impact on the team after two totally forgettable campaigns. And with Snack gone, McClendon will almost certainly get his chance to start ahead of homicidal maniac Alameda Ta’amu.
At 320 pounds, McClendon certainly has the size to play the nose. The remarkable thing about him, though, is his quickness and agility. Likely owing to his ballet training, McClendon has always been amazingly light on his feet. When the coaches finally put him in last year, he immediately went flying around blockers and in on the quarterback. As a nose tackle in the Dick LeBeau 3-4, his job will be more to occupy space than rush the passer. Which is unfortunate because he’s shown more ability as an edge rusher than either first rounder. Perhaps his unique skill set will force LeBeau to be more creative with his defensive line this year.
The Steelers, who have struggled to pressure the quarterback, can’t afford not to.