Mentors gone, Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon ready to become big man in middle

Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon is ready to make his mentors proud.

Following the retirement of Chris Hoke and the departure of five-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton, McLendon now finds himself as the big man in the middle of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense.

McLendon split time with Hampton last season, picking up two sacks. The 27-year-old says he's been preparing to be a starter his entire career, even when he was just trying to make the team as an undrafted free agent.

McLendon understands he isn't Hampton, but believes he can be effective. Al Woods and second-year man Alameda Ta'amu will compete for the backup spot. Ta'amu says he has learned from his mistakes last season a run-in with police forced the Steelers to cut him before bringing him back as a practice squad player.