McLendon: Good News In Bleak Week

Steve McLendon 90 (Bridge/USA TODAY Sports)

There was one ray of hope on the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their quagmire last week, and Steve McLendon has overcome an injury to play Monday night.

The Steelers' end-of-week injury report tolls for thee again.

Ruled out of Monday night's game in Cincinnati are CB Cortez Allen, RB Le'Veon Bell and TE Heath Miller.

Thank you, sir! May I have another?

That's what it must feel like for Steelers fans.

But there was some good news. The best Pittsburgh player on the field in last week's opener is going to play. Nose tackle Steve McLendon was listed as probable for Monday night's game in Cincinnati after missing most of the practice week with a tight hamstring.

McLendon, of course, wouldn't admit to playing in beast mode last Sunday, but the guy who took his place in practice said that McLendon played --

"Great," said Al Woods. "I thought Steve played really well. He did some really good things. He played his technique well. He did everything well. Yeah, Steve had a real good game."

"It's a start for me," was all McLendon would say about himself. "I did some good things. I did some things I've got to get better at."

Woods laughed. "First play of the game he was to the quarterback. Third play of the game he was to the quarterback. I admire Steve because he's always trying to find a way to get better. We both are. We try to push each other as much as we can, but to say it all honestly, the dude really did have a good game."

McLendon had 5 tackles and 3 quarterback pressures from the nose tackle position. He was the centerpiece of a defense that allowed 229 yards, the third fewest in the NFL on opening week. The Tennessee Titans and RB Chris Johnson averaged only 2.7 yards per carry.

Those are the statistics the Steelers posted regularly with Casey Hampton at nose tackle. McLendon mentored under Hampton the last four seasons.

"Yeah, but I'm not Casey. I'm not him," said McLendon. "I don't want people to compare me to him because look what he has achieved: twelve years. I haven't done anything. That was my first game starting. This man did this for 12 years. You can't compare me nothing to him. Five, six times Pro Bowler, All-Pro, a Hall of Famer in the waiting. I don't want nobody to compare us. We're two different players and he's a great one.

"Would I like to be where he is one day? Yes, but right now I've got to control what I can control and that's play fast, play hard, and play smart."

But Hampton hadn't made 5 tackles in a game since Dec. 8, 2011. He hadn't had more tackles in a game since his 8 on Dec. 16, 2007 against Jacksonville. Hampton made 6 tackles in two games previous to that.

While Hamptom might provide more anchor on third-and-1s, McLendon's proving to be more disruptive as a penetrator.

"He did that early on in his career," McLendon said. "He put pressure on the quarterback because I've watched old film on Casey. He put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Closer to the end of his career he was more just lateral, stopping the run, completely stopping the run."

One of Hampton's great pass-rush plays, of course, was his sack of Matt Hasselbeck on 1st-and-20 from the Pittsburgh 29 early in the fourth quarter with the Steelers holding a 14-10 lead. That sack led to an interception, and then a Steelers touchdown, to wrap up Super Bowl XL.

"See," McLendon said with a laugh. "He got it when it was needed. And I don't just want to get to the Super Bowl, I want to win a Super Bowl. That's all our goal in here. We clock in every day and say we want to win the Super Bowl. These are my brothers, and I feel like we have the team to do it. I really believe that we're going to the Super Bowl this year."

That's a lot to say after last weekend.

"Don't matter," McLendon said. "That's just one loss. We could win every game from now and out and win the Super Bowl. I believe in my team. And I know my team. Our team believes in each other. I believe we'll correct that this week."

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