A new bylaw that was passed by NFL owners back in March should help the Pittsburgh Steelers out right away when it comes to recent injuries and their offseason 90-man roster.
During the annual owners meetings back in March, teams voted to amend Article XVII, Section 17.1 of the league bylaws to remove the requirement that a non-vested seriously injured player be placed on waivers to be removed from the 90-player roster prior to the final roster reduction to 53 players.
So, what does this bylaw now mean and specifically, how does it now impact the Steelers?
For starters, two non-vested Steelers players, tackle Jerald Hawkins (quad) and tight end Jake McGee (Achilles), both suffered what appear to be season-ending injuries last week during an OTA practice. Both players, by the way, have since had surgery to repair their injuries. The way the bylaw was previously written, both Hawkins and McGee wouldn’t be able to be placed on the team’s Reserve/Injured list prior to the final roster cutdown date unless they were first waved injured and cleared.
According to this recent bylaw change, both Hawkins and McGee should now be able to be placed on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list effective immediately and without having to first be waived injured as long as their injuries are considered “major.”
While the Steelers were unlikely to waive Hawkins injured because of him being a former draft pick with one more year (2019) remaining on his rookie contract, the fact that they no longer have to carry him on their official 90-man roster for several more months will at least now free up a spot for another player to be added should they choose to go that route with him right now.
As for McGee, the recent bylaw change probably isn’t that big of deal when it comes to him because even if had to be waived injured, it’s unlikely that another team would claim him and thus he would then revert back to the Steelers Reserve/Injured list. Even so, the Steelers no longer have to waive him injured if they don’t want to and moving him directly to the Reserve/Injured list will instantly open up another spot on the team’s 90-man roster.
If the Steelers doctors believe that there’s a slight chance that Hawkins could be healthy enough to return to action much later during the 2018 regular season, they could perhaps carry him on their 90-man roster the remainder of the offseason. First, they might have the option of placing him on Active/PUP list at the start of training camp and then transfer him to the Reserve/PUP list once the regular season starts. Going that route would at least give Hawkins a chance to return much later in the season by the PUP deadline. In the meantime, however, he would count against the 90-man roster.
Another route for Hawkins to potentially play in 2018 would be for him to be listed as a designated to return player later in the season. That route, however, would require Hawkins to first be part of the team’s initial 53-man roster in September before then being moved to the team’s Reserve/Injured list just prior to the team’s Week 1 game. With him missing all of training camp with his injury and combined with the fact that he’s very inexperienced and would initially need to be on the team’s 53-man roster, it seems very, very unlikely that that option will be a feasible one when it comes to Hawkins and especially because of the significance of his injury and it being to his quad.
In summation, there’s probably a good chance that both Hawkins and McGee go directly to the team’s Reserve/Injured list sometime this week and thus instantly free up two spots on the team’s offseason 90-man roster.