Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Jerald Hawkins
Stock Value: Down
We continue stating the obvious here two days in a row by pointing out that Jerald Hawkins’ stock is down after he suffered a season-ending torn quad muscle in the last days of May during OTAs. It is especially unfortunate because his teammates said that he was playing the best football of his career early on, and he was in line for a big season.
With the free agency departure of Chris Hubbard, Hawkins was the favorite to take over the swing tackle job, which has been a very important role over the past decade for the Steelers. In pretty much every season over that time, the number three tackle has had to be called upon to start at least a couple of games, and frequently, much more than a couple. Hubbard logged more snaps at right tackle last year than did starter Marcus Gilbert.
Spending the year on injured reserve is unfortunately nothing new to Hawkins. After the Steelers used a fourth-round draft pick on him as an underclassman in 2016, he suffered a shoulder injury in the first preseason game and found himself on that list.
He finally saw the 53-man roster last season, but it wasn’t in the manner that he would have preferred. He was actually the fifth tackle at the start of the season, the team putting its trust in Matt Feiler over him to serve as the swing tackle when Hubbard was starting for Gilbert.
He did take over the backup swing tackle role (that is, Hubbard’s backup) in the second half of the season, and even got on the field, used as a tackle-eligible, over the last five games of the season, but he had mixed results in that work.
The Steelers were expecting him to take a big step forward this year and fight it out with rookie Chukwuma Okorafor to serve as the swing tackle this year, but now Okorafor may have to take on that job by default whether he is ready or not. He may have been able to beat Hawkins anyway, but now we won’t get the opportunity to find out, and neither will the LSU product.