The Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, and the offseason is in full effect. The front office and coaching staff are preparing for the NFL Draft, but the players are instead spending time with their families and finding ways to improve for next season. Stephon Tuitt is already studying film, Ramon Foster is working out like a man possessed in Nashville, and Steven Nelson is learning about the important Pittsburgh landmarks.
Defensive lineman Javon Hargrave is similarly preparing, but he is doing so with the feedback of his coaches. The third-year veteran sat down with Missi Matthews of the Steelers media team to discuss his upcoming offseason, and he explained that part of his offseason was meeting with the coaches in exit interviews and receiving feedback. They gave him crucial information that will lead to an even better 2019 campaign.
“Just growing more,” Hargrave said. “Just growing even more as a football player, just finding ways to get better, just being able to contribute more to help the team. There are some things I did good, and some things that I did bad, I just really need to improve on next year.”
Throughout the 2018 season, Hargrave was involved fairly heavily in this Steelers defense. He started 14 of the 16 games in which he appeared and tallied 49 combined tackles with 6.5 sacks, both of which were career highs. He was effective as an interior pass rusher and attributes this success to taking advantage of increased opportunities on the defensive line. As Hargrave explained, part of his expanded role came from putting good plays on film, but there were also some injuries that opened up more playing time.
“I think I had the same role, but I just got more opportunities than I had in the past. I just took advantage of some opportunities and did big things with it…I think it’s some things I showed, just due to some injuries too. My boy (Stephon) Tuitt going down, it just opened up more things for me, and I think I just showed what I could do.”
While Hargrave was undoubtedly excited at the increased playing time in 2018 and the subsequently added opportunities in the 2019 season, he would prefer if the extra snaps did not come at the expense of his teammates. Similarly, the Steelers would also prefer if Hargrave and Tuitt were both healthy and able to serve as fierce defenders along this offensive line. Although having healthy players is only part of the equation. They also have to continuously grow with each passing day.
“We just can’t make the same mistakes twice,” Hargrave said. “That’s something that Coach Butler and Coach T preach to us. When you are a good pro, you don’t make the same mistakes twice, so some of the things that happened last year can’t happen this year that’s coming up. That’s the only way you get better in this league.”