In a recent feature on the Steelers’ website, Steve McLendon, who’s slated to replace Casey Hampton in the middle of the defensive line, detailed some of the workout routines he’s utilized from other sports in an attempt to make himself a better football player.
Among the particularly interesting sports mentioned were ballet and karate. But here’s the really fascinating drill McLendon has tried with a personal trainer in Atlanta: watching pitches at a batting cage and focusing on picking up the ball.
Here’s what McLendon said of his baseball work to Steelers.com:
“I think baseball is the scariest sport ever. I have a lot of respect for those guys. I take my hat off to them. I got in the batting cage, well close to it, and was watching the ball coming. I thought how do these guys even see this ball?
“That is how I learned the eye coordination, though. By the time the ball is released, they know when the ball is going to get there. If I can learn to watch the ball it will slow the game down for me. You can see when the pitcher is going to grip the ball and his throw and windup.
“It’s the same with a center. You see him grip the ball, his windup is the snap. If I can catch his hand and am able to attack him, it will make me that much quicker and better applying pressure to the quarterback, running back and the offensive line.”
The 27-year-old McLendon has appeared in 36 regular-season games for Pittsburgh, primarily as a backup to Hampton, whom the Steelers have not re-signed. This leaves McLendon as the likely starter at nose tackle, a position Hampton played so well over the years.
The time in the batting cages could well help McLendon. And watching Hampton for the last several years probably hasn’t hurt, either.