Dan McCullers has been a backup nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the past six-plus seasons. But it appears his time with the black and gold has come to an end. This afternoon his name appeared on the NFL transaction report under “Contracts Terminated By Player.”
These days, players who terminate their contracts are typically practice squad guys (like McCullers), who have received an offer to sign to the active roster of another team. It has yet to be revealed which team has solicited the services of the 6-foot-7, 350-pounder.
Dan McCullers’ Career with the Steelers
The Steelers selected Dan McCullers in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of the University of Tennessee. Despite his always modest production, McCullers managed to stick with the club ever since. Never mind that he made just three starts in 73 regular season games and his career stat line adds up to just 41 total tackles, 2.5 career sacks, nine quarterback hits and two passes defensed. Most of that production came in his “career year” of 2016, when he had 17 tackles, a sack and five quarterback hits.
This season he failed to make the opening-day roster, getting cut along with fellow veteran Ryan Switzer. But he soon returned to the team as a member of the first incarnation of the 2020 practice squad, along with quarterback Devlin Hodges.
Despite the departure of former starting nose tackle Javon Hargrave via free agency this past March, McCullers became expendable due to improved depth on the interior of Pittsburgh’s defensive line. Tyson Alualu has excelled playing on the inside, and the Steelers also now employ Chris Wormley (acquired in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Ravens), as well as Isiah Buggs and 2020 seventh-round draft pick Carlos Davis, the latter an intriguing developmental prospect with the pass rush skills that McCullers always lacked.
McCullers’ departure means that Pittsburgh will likely add a new player to its practice squad to fill the, um, rather large void left in his wake.
This looks to be the second week in a row that Pittsburgh has lost a veteran player from its practice squad. Last week the Arizona Cardinals poached former Giants and Raiders safety Curtis Riley. (The Steelers went on to replace Riley by signing safety John Battle to their practice squad, where he remains today.)
Pittsburgh’s Protected Practice Squad Players
In related news, the Steelers have designated the four practice squad players that they are permitted to protect this week, those being:
DL Henry Mondeaux
RB Wendell Smallwood
WR Deon Cain
LB Jayrone Elliott
If left unprotected, Smallwood would seem to be particularly vulnerable to being claimed by another club. The former Washington and Philadelphia Eagles running back signed with the Steelers in July and has been productive enough as a pass catcher during his NFL career that a team in need of a running back could come calling.
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