The Pittsburgh Steelers have a major set challenges facing them for the offseason of 2019 after they managed to miss the postseason for the first time in five years. The failure has been taken especially grievously because of the fact that the team was in position to control their own fate even for homefield advantage with six games remaining before dropping four games.
And so they find themselves getting the exit meeting process underway at least two weeks earlier than they have had to in years, since they have made it to at least the Divisional Round since 2015. Hopefully they used those extra two weeks with purpose.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2018 season.
Player: Jerald Hawkins
Experience: 3 Years
We are almost all the way through the exit meetings, but there still a few loose ends that need to be tied up, including the players who spent the season on injured reserve. The most notable of that group would be 2016 fourth-round draft pick Jerald Hawkins, who has now been injured for two thirds of his NFL experience.
Hawkins, drafted as a junior out of LSU, was projected to assume the swing tackle role in 2018 before he suffered a season-ending injury all the way in training camp. He had already earned that responsibility in the second half of the 2017 season.
Because of his injury, however, when Marcus Gilbert went down, it was Matt Feiler who was given the first opportunity to start in his place, and he exceeded expectations there, enough that the team felt comfortable trading him and going with what they have at tackle.
Things could have gone drastically differently had it not been for that injury. Hawkins could have been the one getting that chance to prove himself as a starter in 2018, and he could be preparing to sign a big contract extension this summer as the team moves forward with him as their right tackle.
He still figures to be in the competition for the job in training camp along with Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, and potentially Zach Banner as well—all of them aside from Feiler mid-round draft picks in the past three drafts—but it’s a much more uphill battle now than it could have been.
He’s no doubt aware of how big of an offseason this is for him. He could either end up in the starting lineup or on the street depending upon how the competition goes. The good news is that, from all appearances, he figures to head into this competition fully healthy.