The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2016 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Never the less, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Jerald Hawkins
Experience: 1 Year
Jerald Hawkins may have technically accrued a year of experience, but aside from a brief stint in training camp and in one preseason game—and all the offseason leading up to it of course—he spent his rookie season on the injured reserve list after suffering a shoulder injury.
The Steelers obviously saw something that they liked in Hawkins to use a fourth-round pick on him as an underclassman. The majority believed that it would have been wise for him to return to school for another year, which no doubt would have improved his draft candidacy for the 2018 season.
Pittsburgh was hoping that his rookie season would essentially be his senior year, as was the case with Jesse James in 2015, though that plan was sidetracked significantly with his inability to participate on the practice field for all of the regular season and most of the preseason.
But that is not to say that Hawkins’ rookie season was all for naught, and he certainly was given plenty of time to develop under Mike Munchak in the classroom. The biggest step that players take from their first year to their second year is a matter of the mental aspect of the game rather than the physical, and while the two must work together, it is much better to have one of the components than neither.
What little they did get to see of Hawkins on the field last year was, however, encouraging. Alex Kozora’s reports on him during training camp sessions were quite positive, and I was impressed with his work in the Steelers’ opening preseason game. I did a film session from that performance should you be inclined to look it up.
With veteran tackle Ryan Harris electing to retire, it is very possible that Hawkins is accelerated in his second season into the role of backup swing tackle. That would not exactly be an unheard of leap, as Alejandro Villanueva filled that role as a first-year player in 2015.
Hawkins has a lot of promise and potential to live up to, but there is reason to believe that he will do just that. The Steelers are excited about getting a better look at him in his second season, and the fact that they don’t need him to start is just a bonus.