I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: Jerald Hawkins is the most vulnerable offensive lineman from last season’s roster.
While the Steelers did lose an offensive lineman from last season after Chris Hubbard signed with the Cleveland Browns in free agency, that doesn’t mean everybody who was on the team a year ago is safe to return for another season.
Hubbard was replaced by the signing of Chukwuma Okorafor, who is going to be on the roster whether he is ready to contribute or not. If he is, he could potentially be the swing tackle, and if that happens, Hawkins is in jeopardy if the team can’t afford to carry nine linemen again this year.
Matt Feiler is the only reserve on the roster other than B.J. Finney who currently has any experience working along the interior, and teams always have at least two backups to play inside, since there are three inside positions. Feiler is even learning the center position, and is capable of playing all five spots. He was even the backup to Hubbard as the swing tackle for the first half of the season, ahead of Hawkins.
But in Hawkins’ defense, he did start the regular season a year ago nursing a minor injury, and he did bypass Feiler as the backup to Hubbard as the swing tackle in the second half of the year. The team even wanted to get him on the field so they used him as an extra lineman, though he had mixed results in those snaps in that role.
And there’s nothing stopping him from getting some reps at guard this offseason either to expand his versatility. Even if he loses the swing tackle job to Okorafor, he could still be valuable as the eighth lineman if he can play both inside and outside. And besides, right now he is probably the favorite to be the swing tackle this year.