Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon has changed his work habits, his expectations and his vocabulary this offseason.
Aiming to fill the shoes of longtime nose tackle Casey Hampton, McLendon said he's no longer thinking in terms of "good," only "great."
"This team has been built on greatness for so long," McLendon told Steelers.com today. "That's my kind of look. I'm not coming here just to be good, I want to be great. So I changed my mind, and I changed my work ethic."
McLendon is charged with stepping up in the absence of Hampton, who former teammate Chris Hoke called "the best locker-room guy the Steelers had," according to the Post-Gazette.
McLendon signed a three-year, $7.25 million deal in April, all but guaranteeing Hampton would not be back. A former first-round pick, Hampton spent 12 seasons in Pittsburgh and made five Pro Bowl appearances as the team's starting nose tackle.
The Steelers are counting on McLendon to use his powerful frame to penetrate, occupy blockers and disrupt plays from the inside. He'll do that with a style all his own, he said.
"The only thing I can do is be the typical Steve McLendon," he said.
"And if you all would like to know the typical Steve McLendon, then I can tell you. I want to be powerful and strong like Casey. I want to be strong like Chris Hoke. I want to be quick and fast like Jay Ratliff for the Cowboys.
"You put all those guys together and you get the typical Steve McLendon."
Typical Steve McLendon is some 40 pounds lighter than Hampton, but has better length and quickness. He's expected to line up next to veteran Brett Keisel and former first-round pick Ziggy Hood.
McLendon arrived in Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent from Troy and had to work for every opportunity to this point. Now, he'll be relied upon to play a pivotal role in Dick LeBeau's defense.
"I've been preparing like a starter since Day One," McLendon said. "I never came in here thinking I was going to be a backup. I prepare hard every day, I work hard every day. I listen to my coaches.
"Opportunities like this, for a guy like myself, are hard to come by. That's why i have to play fast, play hard and play smart.