2018 Steelers Pre-Training Camp Roster Review: Tackle

The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2018 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.

We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.

Position: Tackle

Total Positional Figure: 10

Additions: 3

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

Alejandro Villanueva: Entering his fourth season, Villanueva is coming off his first Pro Bowl, but he still has definitely room for growth. I think his biggest hurdle is not starting off the season slow.

Marcus Gilbert: Gilbert is entering a pretty big year with two years left on his contract. Already 30 years old, he’s coming off a season in which he missed more than half the snaps due to injury and suspension, and they have a couple of young tackles on the roster they want to look at.

Jerald Hawkins [Injured Reserve]: Of course one of those young tackles is Hawkins, who suffered a season-ending injury during OTAs. He was a favorite to take over the swing tackle job this year.

Jake Rodgers: Hawkins’ injury opens the door for players like Rodgers, a journeyman who has spent time in Pittsburgh before. He will be one of the primary competitors for a ninth lineman spot on the roster.

Matt Feiler: Some of these names are more emergency options. Feiler is a player they moved full-time inside last season until they needed him in an emergency at the start of the year. Even after Hawkins’ injury, I read no report of him taking any tackle reps. But he’s tackle-capable.

Joseph Cheek: We’re not going to learn too much that we didn’t already know about players like Cheek until training camp, to be honest.

Larson Graham: Though listed as a tackle, he has actually been playing inside. It’s not clear if he will get some work outside, but they seem to have more than enough bodies there.

Players Added:

Chukwuma Okorafor: A rookie third-round pick, Okorafor is being thrown into an accelerated learning course following Hawkins’ injury. While he is virtually guaranteed a roster spot, the team is hoping he will be ready to take over that swing tackle role.

R.J. Prince: A rookie college free agent who was a workout invitee, Prince has spent time at guard and tackle. He even took some snaps with the second-team group after Hawkins’ injury.

Bryce Harris: Harris is a veteran journeyman who was signed after Hawkins’ injury. He does not have a glowing resume and is far from guaranteed to have a roster spot.

Players Lost: N/A

Notes and Camp Outlook: 

There will be no competition for starting jobs, but seeing if Okorafor can handle the backup job is going to be a big story if you realize how often the swing tackle has to play in Pittsburgh. What sort of work Feiler and Prince get—and how well they do—is also something I’ll be watching.

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