The 2012 draft continued to fall into place today for the Steelers, as a true nose tackle dropped far enough that they were able to trade up to get him in the fourth round.
It is way too early to tab Alameda Ta’amu as the long-term replacement for Casey Hampton, but the 6-2, 348-pounder certainly fits the profile.
Ta’amu started 42 of 50 games at Washington and finished his career with 109 tackles, 16 ½ tackles for losses and 7 ½ sacks.
“His job is to keep linebackers free or the safety free when we bring the safety down in the box,” Steelers assistant head coach and defensive line coach John Mitchell said. “If he can’t do that he’ll have a very tough time playing for us. He did that very well at the University of Washington.”
Like first-round pick David DeCastro, Ta’amu grew up in the state of Washington. The two were teammates for a high school All-Star game, and they played against each other in the Pac 12.
“With DeCastro he’s explosive from play one all the way to the last play,” Ta’amu said. “There are not a lot of guards that can stay the same like that throughout the whole game. There are not a lot of guards than can block a nose guard and you can feel it.”
One thing he and DeCastro did not share: rooting interests in Super Bowl XL.
“I rooted for the Steelers (over the Seahawks) in that Super Bowl,” Ta’amu said.
Mitchell did not commit to much of anything when it comes to Ta’amu, only promising that he will break down his newest prospect and build him back up.
How much the Steelers will depend on Ta’amu next season and after 2012 remains to be seen. Mitchell said “you have to ask Casey” when asked if Hampton will be healthy enough to open the season on the 53-man roster.
Mitchell seems high on Steve McLendon, the former undrafted free agent who emerged last season. But the veteran coach didn’t say whether he thinks McLendon is a viable replacement for Hampton, who is in the final year of his contract.
“Everybody wants to discard McLendon,” Mitchell said. “Let me tell you this: hold your opinion until the season is over.”
— Scott Brown