To the best of my knowledge, because of the fact that he spent his rookie season on the injured reserve list, Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 fourth-round draft pick Jerald Hawkins is unable to attend today’s rookie minicamp due to the fact that he is technically regarded as a second-year player.
It is simply an unfortunate quirk regarding the manner in which the calibration works relative to the concept of accrued seasons, which is never the less an essential quirk when determining a player’s free agent status. To lose an accrued season due to injury would be unfair, yet the blowback from that is an admittedly very mild disadvantage for injured rookies.
While the Steelers may not get a look at Hawkins in the rookie minicamp, however, he has been participating in Phase One and Phase Two of the team’s offseason program, which is a not insignificant event, given that he suffered a shoulder injury in August.
And the team is very much looking forward to seeing more of their fourth-round offensive lineman, whom they took out of LSU as an underclassman with one of the very few draft choices that they have utilized on offensive linemen in the past five years.
In spite of the fact that they lost veteran reserve tackle Ryan Harris this offseason, who retired in order to pursue a career in broadcasting following over a decade in the NFL, Bob Labriola was quick to point out regarding Hawkins in the team website’s breakdown of the 2016 rookie class that “the Steelers did not draft an offensive lineman”.
Not only did they fail to add to that pool through the draft, “The only offensive lineman they signed among their undrafted rookies was a guard out of IUP, Ethan Cooper”, Labriola noted. “And so a lot of that has to do with what they think of Jerald Hawkins”.
The second-year tackle only made it through the first preseason game last year, during which he either suffered or aggravated the shoulder injury that ended his rookie season, but the coaching staff saw a lot to like from him up to that point.
“This is a guy the Steelers really like for his athletic ability—his feet, his hands”, Labriola told viewers recently. “They really believe that this guy could be a starting-caliber left tackle in the league. And so there is a lot of optimism surrounding Jerald Hawkins as he’s entering his second year around the league”.
Fortunately for the team, they are not currently in the market for a starting tackle with Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert entrenched in those roles on either side—at least ostensibly. But this is a league in which you need at least three tackles who are capable of starting, and that has especially been the case for the Steelers given their recent injury history at the position.