Heyward raves about McCullers' potential

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5
12:00
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward referenced American folklore when he talked about Daniel McCullers after a recent practice

And Heyward comparing McCullers to Paul Bunyan because of his size only added to the intrigue when it comes to the second of the Steelers’ two sixth-round draft picks last month.

Not that Heyward merely sees the 6-foot-7, 352-pound McCullers as a curiosity or sideshow.

“His potential's out of the roof,” Heyward said. “I think we can get a lot out of him. It's about getting him to the next level.”

Heyward will become something of a de facto assistant to defensive line coach John Mitchell in helping McCullers progress and trying to get the most out of the Tennessee product.

McCullers' biggest challenge will be playing with the leverage that is necessary at nose tackle where he has been working at exclusively during the Steelers’ organized team activities (OTAs).

That won't be easy given his build, which is anything but the prototype for a nose tackle. But Heyward sees at least one similarity between McCullers and Casey Hampton, the nose tackle archetype who made five Pro Bowls from 2001-12 for the Steelers.

“Casey was a little stockier but the thing about both of them is you can’t move them,” Heyward said. “When you can eat up two to three blockers a play that’s going to make you successful.”

Not that anyone is anointing McCullers as the next Hampton. Coach Mike Tomlin, in fact, laughed off a question comparing the two shortly after the Steelers drafted McCullers.

McCullers will have a hard enough time making the 53-man roster let alone getting on the field early in his career.

But his sheer mass is a commodity -- and something that every team still covets even with NFL offenses increasingly spreading out defenses.

“We’re not asking him to make every play,” Heyward said. “But we’re asking him to take up some blocks and make it easier for our linebackers.”

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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