Talk about landing in the right place at the right time. Last October former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Steve McLendon was traded from the lowly New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl ring four months later. On Wednesday, the Bucs announced that they have re-signed the 12th-year lineman, who provided interior-line depth for Tampa Bay in 12 games last year, including the postseason.
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Working as part of a rotation that included Ndamukong Suh, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Will Gholston, McLendon recorded 17 tackles and two tackles for loss for the Bucs during the 2020 regular season and added five tackles and three quarterback hits in three postseason games, including a tackle and a quarterback hit in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
McLendon entered the NFL in 2009, signing as an undrafted free agent out of Troy University in Alabama. After a year on Pittsburgh’s practice squad he made the roster in 2010 and went on to appear in 79 games in a Steelers uniform (31 starts). Then he signed with the New York Jets as an unrestricted free agent in 2016, making 59 starts in four-plus years before the trade to the Bucs.
All in all, he has appeared in 153 NFL regular-season games and has recorded 265 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 43 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries.
Cornerback Ross Cockrell: Right Place, Right Time, Too
A day earlier, the Bucs announced that they have re-signed former Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell, who Buccaneers general manager has referred to as “one of the best pickups” the team made during the 2020 season. Cockrell was signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad on September 23rd of last year and was promoted to the active roster in October. Initially he didn’t see much playing time, but after Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean suffered injuries he played a total of 270 snaps in the final ten games of the year, including eight snaps in the Super Bowl.
He finished the 2020-21 season with 12 tackles, a quarterback hit and two passes defensed (including the playoffs) and will almost certainly remain in a reserve role again this year.
All told, Cockrell has spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Steelers, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and Buccaneers. He has appeared in 80 regular-season games (40 starts), contributing 230 total tackles, seven interceptions and 45 passes defensed. He started all 16 games for the Steelers in 2016.
Tampa Bay’s Coaching Staff is Filled with Former Steelers
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s coaching staff has its share of former Steelers players and coaches, even with the departure of Antwaan Randle El, who recently signed on to become the wide receivers coach for the Detroit Lions, apparently beating out former teammate Hines Ward for the job.
The Bucs still have former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as their head coach, with ex-Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich remaining in his role as Tampa’s offensive coordinator for the third consecutive season.
On the other side of the ball, the Bucs have former Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote serving as outside linebackers coach. He’s entering his third season in that role.
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