2018 Offseason Questions: Carry 9 OL Even Without Hawkins?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: Wil the Steelers still carry nine offensive linemen after losing Jerald Hawkins?

As is usually the case in these daily questions, the point in asking them is not to be provided an answer. It’s just raising the topic for discussion as a question to which we currently don’t have an answer, or to which there isn’t currently an answer. Right now the Steelers don’t know if they will carry nine linemen.

Historically, however, the team has shown itself to be far less inclined to carry nine linemen when one of the nine they planned on carrying gets injured. They only carry nine if there are nine that they truly believe are deserving of the spot.

Otherwise they will just carry two linemen on the practice squad to get to 10 in total, in order to have two full lines to work with in practice. Which is kind of the point, of course. Pretty much all teams try to have at least 10 offensive linemen so they can run more than one line at a time, or to avoid using starters for scout reps.

The Steelers don’t seem to have that obvious fit for a ninth lineman this year with Jerald Hawkins being injured. Jake Rodgers and Bryce Harris would seem to be the best candidates, but neither of them seem like players you would feel compelled to carry on the 53-man roster. Rodgers at least is eligible for the practice squad.

There are two things that could change this scenario. One would be if the Steelers actually bring in a more veteran option at tackle. The other would be if Chukwuma Okorafor struggles too much and would essentially be taking a redshirt year.

There’s no way they would go into the season with just Matt Feiler as the only backup lineman they would be comfortable playing at tackle. But for what it’s worth, the rookie does seem to be gaining largely positive reviews so far from his peers.

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