Moments after the Steelers selected nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu in the fourth-round of this year's NFL Draft, defensive line Coach John Mitchell sat in the team's media room fielding questions from the reporters on hand.
After a few questions about Ta'amu, Mitchell was asked about Steve McLendon, hinting that he isn't the prototypical nose tackle at 6-4, 280 pounds.
Mitchell didn't hesitate with his answer.
"Everybody wants to discard McLendon, let me tell you this, hold your opinion until the season is over," said Mitchell emphatically. "I'm just saying keep your opinion until after the season, you make the decision."
When McLendon heard Mitchell's words, he couldn't help it but smile.
"It shows he has confidence in me," said McLendon. "He only says stuff like that if he is confident in you. I am going to come to work every day and show him I can do this.
"People may say I am not the classic nose tackle, but what is the classic nose tackle. Some nose tackles are big, some small. If you look at Jay Ratliff for the Cowboys he is not a big nose tackle, but he plays very well. You look at Casey Hampton and he is a big nose tackle and plays well. I figure I will be in between. If I can move quick at nose and play strong at nose, it's all going to work itself out for me."
With Mitchell having high expectations for McLendon this season, it comes as no surprise that the third-year tackle out of Troy has the same type of expectations of himself.
"I want to be great," said McLendon. "I have taken my work ethic to the next level. I am pushing myself every day. If the stars are where I want to reach, I need to reach past them. The expectations are really, really high. That should be of everybody in the Steelers organization. The expectation is to win the Super Bowl and be great."
McLendon signed with the Steelers in 2009 as an undrafted rookie. He spent the majority of the 2009 season on the practice squad, was waived before the start of the 2010 season, spending the first few months of the season bouncing from the practice squad to the active roster.
He finally solidified a spot on the roster mid-way through the 2010 season, and became a vital back-up in 2011, fighting tooth and nail every step of the way.
"You have to remember what got you here, hard work and fighting," said McLendon. "If you fight for it every day things happen. No one else believes in you, you should believe in yourself. I believe I can do the job. I am ready for anything."
With Chris Hoke retiring this offseason, McLendon is going to have to be ready as the number one backup to Hampton, who is coming back from a knee injury in the AFC wild card game. If Hampton can't go, it will be McLendon that gets the call.
"It is an opportunity for me and the rest of us," said McLendon. "We all have to step up. It is a real good opportunity for me as well."
One person who is helping to make sure McLendon is ready to step up is defensive end Ziggy Hood. They both came to the Steelers the same year, Hood as the number one pick, while McLendon was a free agent. They formed an immediate friendship, the two always together, always in the weight room pushing themselves and working hard.
"I know he has my back," said McLendon. "If I know one person has my back, we can go against many. It's the same thing with the other guys, but everyone always sees Ziggy and I together. He was the first pick and I was the last guy to come in. We come from two different places. I watched his film before he even came here. He is the like a brother to me.
"In order to be great we have to separate from the rest. This game is about competition. We want to push each other to be great. I want to be great so bad, he does too. We both want to play for a long time. We push each other in everything. If you push each other you are only going to get the best out of each other."