The 2017 season is over and in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers coming up far short of their goal. While they had a regular season record of 13-3, they went 0-1 in the postseason, and that will be the legacy of this previous campaign.
The task at hand is working toward improving that postseason record and assuring that it has a zero in the loss column instead of the win column. We can take a position-by-position look at how they can work toward that goal based on their personnel.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Total Positional Figure: 5
Alejandro Villanueva: As was the case last season, Alejandro Villanueva got off to a rough start in 2017, but he improved as the year went on. Unfortunately, he never played as well by the end of the year as he did toward the playoff run in 2016. Still, he is a good player with the potential remaining to be very good. He already flashes greatness often. It’s more a matter of consistency. He was a Pro Bowl starter in 2017 for reasons that were not 100 percent due to football, but he’s not far off from that level, and nobody can take that distinction away from him anyway.
Marcus Gilbert: Marcus Gilbert is one of the best right tackles in the league when he is on the field. It’s just that he spends too much time not on the field. He turned 30 last month, so he is not exactly a young pup anymore, either. He has two years left on his contract, so he could be in for a short extension in 2019.
Chris Hubbard: Veteran backup Chris Hubbard likely priced himself out of Pittsburgh thanks to Gilbert giving him ample opportunity to prove himself last season, starting most of the year at right tackle. He really developed into a player who can legitimately start for a team. But the Steelers have their starters.
Jerald Hawkins: That means that it’s crucial for Jerald Hawkins to continue to develop as he enters his third season. He is talented and has athleticism, but he has looked rough in practice and in the preseason. The coaches saw enough development to get him on the field as an extra blocker by the end of the year, and he did some good things there.
Matt Feiler: The Steelers list Matt Feiler as a tackle, but he’s spent most of his time lately playing guard, even starting there in the season finale. He is another player like Hubbard who has developed a lot in the past two years. He’s capable of playing right tackle, and did so in the eighth game of the season when Hubbard left late with a concussion.
Offseason Strategy: Upgrade Depth If Value Makes Sense
With Hubbard expected to leave in free agency, Gilbert hitting 30, and Hawkins as yet unproven, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add depth here in the draft if the value makes sense. That value might include a player who can play inside as well. Especially since Ramon Foster is 32. This is likely a day three pick at most.