Steve McLendon has firm grip on Steelers' nose tackle

By Brian McIntyre

The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped a double dose of roster transaction surprises Friday when they activated both Casey Hampton and Rashard Mendenhall from the physically unable to perform list.

Both players underwent knee surgery in January and neither were expected to be ready by now. Of course, neither player will likely play this preseason and Mendenhall might miss most of September, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

Unlike Mendenhall, Hampton doesn't have to cut on a dime while trying to avoid the likes of Ray Lewis, so he should return earlier. When he does, though, he'll find himself in a reserve role as former undrafted free agent Steve McLendon has a firm grip on the starting nose tackle job, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

McLendon is coming off a career season, totaling 13 tackles and a sack in 14 games, including his first NFL start. According to official playing-time documents, McLendon logged just 171 of the team's 999 defensive snaps last season. That number figures to increase as the 6-foot-4, 325-pounder earns the praise of his teammates, including veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote.

"He's strong, he's athletic, he can push the pocket and he can go on the side of the pocket and get pressure," Foote said. "I think last year he really made his mark, the games he played showed the team he's going to be here for a while."