The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped things up in minicamp and put an end to their spring practices, which means that we are officially into the dead zone, the slowest time of the year for football news and general activity, the time between the end of spring drills in mid-June to the opening of training camps in late July.
Before we get there, we are going to take a look at how the team’s roster has evolved since prior to the draft, the last time that we broke down the Steelers by position, and obviously a lot has changed since they have fleshed out their 90-man roster.
Total Positional Figure: 6
Marcus Gilbert: It seemed obvious to most that right tackle Marcus Gilbert really bloomed last season, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that it was also by far the healthiest that he has been. But he has also dedicated himself to transforming his body and mastering his craft over the past couple years, and it has shown.
Alejandro Villanueva: Two years ago, he was a fledgling defensive end on the Eagles. A year ago, he was a longshot aspiring hopeful offensive tackle. Right now, he is the incumbent starting left tackle. A lot can happen in the span of a year.
Ryan Harris: After it became obvious that the Steelers would be unable to re-sign Kelvin Beachum or to lure in a clear starting left tackle, the front office signed Ryan Harris, ostensibly to compete with and push Villanueva for the starting job. He was a 16-game starter last year for the Broncos, and is a long-time veteran of several teams.
Matt Feiler: Matt Feiler was carried on the practice squad for the entirety of the 2015 season and is still here, so that has to account for something. Of course, at this point, the best he can realistically hope for is to keep his spot on the practice squad, but there may not even be a spot for him there this year, as they will likely keep four tackles on the 53-man roster.
Brian Mihalik: A Reserve/Future signing, Brian Mihalik is a tall converted defensive lineman—sound familiar—and former undrafted free agent. Not a great deal is known about him at the moment, though I have seen reports that he took a couple reps here and there with the second-team line during OTAs.
Jerald Hawkins: The Steelers drafted underclassman tackle Jerald Hawkins in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and there is every reason to believe he will make the 53-man roster, and probably spend the entire year barring injury inactive. But he has the potential to develop into a nice player.
Mike Adams: The team’s former second-round pick in 2012, Mike Adams missed all of last season after having surgery on his back. Because he was on the PUP list all year, his contract tolled, but the Steelers released him with a failed physical. They had clearly moved on with the signing of Harris and the drafting of Hawkins.
Notes and Camp Outlook: Reserve lineman Chris Hubbard has also practiced and played the position—for about six or seven snaps—and could be an emergency option. While Gilbert is cemented in place, the left tackle spot is Villanueva’s to lose, and Harris’ to win. No doubt both will get work there in the preseason, though the judging scale may have a pinkie weighing down Villanueva’s side.