What do you do when you combine nose tackles Casey Hampton, Jay Ratliff and Chris Hoke?

"You get the typical Steve McLendon," Steve McLendon said.

Meet the Steelers' new starting nose tackle. If you thought the old one who held that job the past 12 years played with confidence and candor, wait until you hear Hampton's successor.

"If y'all want to know the typical Steve McLendon, I can tell you," he instructed. "The typical Steve McLendon is I want to be powerful and strong like Casey, I want to be smart like Chris Hoke, and I want to be quick and fast like Jay Ratliff of the [Dallas] Cowboys."

Hampton made five Pro Bowls and Ratliff four as two of the best nose tackles in the league.

"Isn't that always the goal?" McLendon asked Tuesday after the team's fourth spring practice. "You don't come out here just to be a secondary guy. You come out here to be the greatest, that's how I look at it.

"I changed my whole my way of thinking this year. I'm no longer saying 'good,' I'm saying 'great' because if you speak greatness, greatness will come."

And why can't it come for McLendon?

Born in Ozark, Ala., he played at Troy and came to the Steelers in 2009 the same way James Harrison did, as an undrafted free agent.

He has it all over Harrison, though, because McLendon was cut four times by the Steelers -- once in 2009 and three times in 2010. He became a footnote in 2010 when he was released to make room for Ben Roethlisberger's return to the roster after his four-game NFL suspension. He also was cut once from the practice squad.

McLendon made steady progress, took over for the retired Hoke as Hampton's backup last season and now the job is his, along with a new three-year contract worth $7.25 million. His new deal came one day after he paid Green Bay a visit in April as a restricted free agent. The Packers were prepared to sign him.

Going undrafted and cut four times has motivated him "not a little bit, a lot."

"The only thing you can do is wear it like a coat, keep it on your shoulder, humble yourself. That's when you become successful, when you humble yourself, remember those things and push forward from those things."