The journey toward the 2017 season is now in full swing with the Pittsburgh Steelers having reported to Latrobe for their annual training camp at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their camps for over half a century now.
This is surely the time more than any other in which we find ourselves full of questions that we are looking to get answered, and this also tends to be the best time to get answers to those questions that have been building up over the course of time since the 2016 season ended.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the training camp and the preseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: How secure is Jerald Hawkins’ grip on a roster spot?
We have for an entire year now been working under the assumption that Jerald Hawkins, a second-year offensive lineman drafted in the fourth round, is going to be on the roster this year after he had a good preseason outing in 2016 that resulted in him suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so presumptuous.
Despite the fact that the Steelers have had rather high hopes about the LSU product—I recall multiple articles to that effect back in the spring from the team’s website, for example—Hawkins had a generally poor training camp, and a poor showing in the first preseason game.
He may have begun to improve over the course of the past week, but is he actually playing at the level of a lineman who would deserve a roster spot no matter his status or pedigree? I don’t think that I could answer that question in the affirmative.
Perhaps his greatest ally is that, while the Steelers are set among their top seven linemen with Chris Hubbard and B.J. Finney being the top backups, there is not a whole lot of competition behind them among players deserving of a spot on the 53-man roster.
Even with the very realistic prospect of the team electing to carry only eight linemen this year because of needs elsewhere on the roster at deeper positions, there are not many other linemen behind Finney and Hubbard who could really be in the conversation for making the team.
The exception could be Matt Feiler, who spent two weeks on the 53-man roster a year ago after Ryan Harris was placed on injured reserve. Because he no longer has practice squad eligibility, he would need to make the roster to keep him.
Hawkins would not be the first fourth-round draft pick cut this early into his career. Doran Grant is the most recent example, but if you go back to 2010, Kraig Urbik, a third-rounder, did not make the team in his second season. He was beat out by Doug Legursky.