McLendon: 'I just like to be on the field'

The Steelers prepare for the week 9 matchup against the Oakland Raiders.

Defensive ends normally get the sack opportunities and the glory while nose tackles usually draw the double-team blocks.

But Steve McLendon attacks either position with equal enthusiasm.

"I like playing both," he said. "The biggest thing for me is I just like to be on the field of play.

"I like nose because it's over the ball. At end I get to rush the passer a little bit more. But I can do both, there's not one I like better than the other. Like (head) coach (Mike) Tomlin always says, the more you can do."

McLendon has been doing more for the Steelers in the absence of defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a knee injury in the fourth quarter on Oct. 18 against Arizona.

McLendon played 26 defensive snaps against the Cardinals, 41 on Oct. 25 at Kansas City and 53 (79 percent) last Sunday against Cincinnati.

McLendon was at nose tackle in the base defense and a sub-package end against the Chiefs.

In the Bengals game he played predominantly at end, which in turn opened up nose tackle for Daniel McCullers, who played a season-high 53 snaps against Cincinnati.

McLendon registered his fifth career sack in the Bengals game. But with Tuitt having completed his second consecutive day of full participation in practice today, McLendon might be headed back to nose tackle for the Raiders game.

That would involve a return to a lower-profile position but a no less significant one in McLendon's estimation.

"You still get the glory because people watch film and they're like, 'This is one guy we have to continue to block,'" he said. "If you're doing that same thing at end, they're going to try to scheme around you at end. So no matter what you can be a glorified player or a guy they have to watch out for at either position."

Another factor in where McLendon ends up playing against the Raiders might be the availability of defensive end Cam Heyward. He and his wife are awaiting the birth of the couple's first child.

"If my baby is on his way on Sunday I'll be there," Heyward said.

McLendon, a sixth-year pro, said he played some defensive end early in his career.

His most recent experience has opened the door to McLendon potentially being included in a rotation at the position even when the Steelers have all of their defensive ends available.

"I played against the Raiders, against Kansas City, Baltimore, Cincinnati," early in his career, he remembered. "In order for me to get on the field I had to be able to know everything.

"It was nothing like this past game (against Cincinnati), nothing like starting and finishing at end. I hadn't played that many snaps before the Kansas City game. I felt like in this game (against the Bengals) I was able to take a step in the right direction."

OUT: LB Terence Garvin (knee), TE Matt Spaeth (knee).
PROBABLE: S Will Allen (ankle), WR Martavis Bryant (illness), CB William Gay (not injury related), LB James Harrison (not injury related), TE Heath Miller (not injury related), S Mike Mitchell (concussion), Tuitt (knee), QB Mike Vick (hamstring), WR Markus Wheaton (ankle).

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