The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was very shortly after the 2016 season ended. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed, and, in a rarity, this actually applies to literally every position on the roster, including the quarterbacks and specialists.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Total Positional Figure: 8
Alejandro Villanueva: 2017 is the season that will determine whether or not Villanueva is a long-term answer at left tackle (though not that long, considering he will already be turning 29 in September). If he picks up where he left off last season, there should be no question that he is. The Steelers’ thoughts will be gauged based on whether or not they give him a long-term contract during the preseason.
Marcus Gilbert: Entering his seventh season now, Gilbert has become one of the best right tackles in the game. The only hurdle left for him to get over is the injuries, which have been too numerous in his career.
Chris Hubbard: until proven otherwise, Hubbard remains in the role of the Steelers’ top backup. Of course, he will have stiff competition in Hawkins. It’s possible that he is a game-day inactive, or plays a fair bit as a tackle-eligible.
Jerald Hawkins: Last year’s fourth-round draft pick, there is a lot of optimism around Hawkins and his potential for the future, but for the time being he has to start by earning the top backup job.
Brian Mihalik: After spending much of last season on the 53-man roster due to injury, Mihalik has an interesting offseason ahead of him. Can he push for the Steelers to keep him as a ninth lineman? Will they have room? Obviously it will be up to him to force the team’s hand.
Matt Feiler: A mainstay at this point of the summer, Feiler originally came in as a tackle but has also worked a lot at guard. The Steelers at the moment list him at tackle. He has practice squad potential especially due to his flexibility.
Keavon Milton: Milton is actually a guy who has been around the block, though often on practice squads. Coming into the league in 2013, he has been active in nine games over the years.
Jake Rodgers: A 2015 seventh-round draft pick of the Falcons, Rodgers has had some time on practice squads the past two years. He could compete with the bottom of the roster for a spot on the practice squad. He has experience inside.
Ryan Harris: Though old news at this point, the Steelers did lost Ryan Harris, who was their top reserve a year ago until he wasn’t. He went on injured reserve after his first game of action. He since retired and is now working in broadcasting.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
There’s nothing to see here when it comes to the starting lineup, but I’m sure a lot of people are going to want to get a good, long look at Jerald Hawkins, and for good reason. He looks like a great prospect, but great prospects are not the same thing as great players.
It will also be interesting to see how much time Hubbard continues to log at tackle. He is capable of flexing out to every position on the line, so they’ll want to be moving him around. Of course, getting a look at Mihalik will draw some attention as well.