It was no easy task Steve McLendon was asked to do last year. Step in and start for Casey Hampton, a player who dominated at nose tackle for 12 years.
It could have been overwhelming for most, but for McLendon he tried to approach it differently.
"I tried to not look at it as replacing him," said McLendon. "He is one heck of a guy. He was one of the best nose tackles ever in the game. I try not to put myself in the same sentence as him. He has earned that. I haven't done anything to earn that.
"The only thing I can do is watch what he did, take the good and add it to my game. There were other guys too, Chris Hoke who helped me. They instilled things in me and that was what I needed."
McLendon played in 14 games last season, starting 10 of them. Looking back on his year, reviewing film with the coaches, he knows he has work to do, but also knows that he made progress as the season went on.
"It was a beginning of a new thing," said McLendon. "I have learned a lot since last year. I can see a lot of areas where I can improve. I am not going to beat myself down, though. Some things I did do well. I am excited to showcase what I can do with a season under my belt."
Photos of Steelers' nose tackle Steve McLendon.
Some of the areas he said he needs to work on are the speed of the game and playing for a full 60 minutes, after coming in to spell Hampton in previous seasons.
"Some guys can start off strong but not finish strong," said McLendon. "That is one of my biggest things. I want to be able to start strong and finish strong. I know I need to get better with pad level and hands. I do them, but they tend to fall off during the game. But I know what I need to work on. I am going to continue to work on them to get better and help this team strive for a championship."
McLendon has focused on getting stronger this offseason. He has added weight. And he sees improvement in his endurance.
"I just have to put myself in situations I was in during the season and train those ways," said McLendon. "You have to give yourself a fighting chance along the way. You can't beat yourself up for the bad you did. With every bad there is a good and with every good there is a bad. You just have to sort it out and make yourself successful.
"I don't want to leave any stones unturned. I want to give everything I have. I am working out extremely hard."
Steelers veterans and rookies participate in the first day of the 2014 Minicamp at the Steelers' practice facility.