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Let's Not Forget Nose Tackle Loni Fangupo

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
Let's not forget nose tackle Loni Fangupo
By Neal Coolong
Let's not forget nose tackle Loni Fangupo
Loni Fangupo is following a very similar path that Steve McLendon did from 2009-13. That path was also followed by Chris Hoke, a long-time Steelers veteran nose tackle.
The Steelers' 2013 draft netted them four players who filled significant roles last season. They aren't the only ones to focus on, however.
The Steelers paid little to no attention to their depth at the nose tackle position from 2001 until about 2012. The position had been locked down by Hampton and Chris Hoke, with one of the two having participated in every Steelers game for more than a decade. When Hoke retired and Hampton was released, Steve McLendon took over after a few years of internship.
McLendon runs the show now, and third-year man Hebron "Loni" Fangupo is following that internship path.
Fangupo has a size advantage on McLendon, and while not the athlete the starter is, he's worked his way up the Steelers depth chart since joining the team after Seattle released him as an undrafted free agent.
He hasn't played much, but very much like McLendon, he came from nowhere to even get where he is now. The team obviously sees something in him; he beat out former fourth round draft pick Alameda Ta'amu - a player the Steelers traded up in the fourth round to get in 2012 - for a roster spot last season.
The depth of the nose tackle position isn't exactly back to the Hampton/Hoke days, but an improving Fangupo could help the Steelers get near that point again, or at least get to a spot where McLendon's athleticism could be used on the edge in passing situations. Defensive end Cameron Heyward proved to be an effective interior rusher in sub-packages last season, but using Fangupo's size opposite another interior rusher would create interior chaos while the edge rushers can feast on the single blocks that come with a collapsing pocket.
Certainly, Fangupo isn't likely to make these kinds of scenarios come true the second he steps on the field, but the team has been working to develop him over the last two years. Perhaps 2014 is when he breaks out.

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