View From The Press Box
Hampton relishing expanded role
November 10th, 2010
Casey Hampton wants to dispel any notions that he is only a two-down player.
“I can play nickel,” the veteran nose tackle said Wednesday. “Y’all put me in the category of I can’t play it. The way this league is going I’m going to have to start playing nickel or I’m going to be extinct.”
That last line was vintage Hampton, who is one of the funniest players in the Steelers locker room.
And he was able to laugh about there not being a place for him in what is becoming a pass-first league because it is simply not true.
The 6-1, 325-pound Hampton is an invaluable cog in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense since he is harder to budge from the line of scrimmage than a grand piano.
He is also a big reason why the Steelers haven’t allowed more than 75 rushing yards in a game through the first eight games of the season, the first time in NFL history that such a feat has been accomplished.
Injuries to starting defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel have necessitated that Hampton also stay on the field much of the time in passing situations.
That means Hampton, who is at the advanced football age of 33, figures to log plenty of snaps Sunday night when the Steelers host Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Hampton said he played in the Steelers’ nickel defense -- a defensive back replaces a lineman in that sub-package –- early in his career.
He said the Steelers stopped using him in the nickel after he sustained a season-ending knee injury in 2004.
He attributed that to the Steelers having quality players like Smith, Keisel and Kimo von Oelhoffen and not concerns about whether he has the stamina to be an every-down player.
“I like rushing the passer,” said Hampton, who was so disruptive as a defensive tackle at Texas that Longhorns coach Mack Brown used to hold him out of scrimmages so the offense had a chance to actually move the ball. “People haven’t seen me do it for so long they think I don’t like it. I love it. I can get after the passer a little bit, push the pocket.”