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2019 Offseason Positional Review – Tackle

With the 2018 season completely in the books and 2019 staring us down just around the corner, it’s time to pause and take stock of the current state of the Pittsburgh Steelers by looking at their roster as it stands now, going position by position.

The new league year officially begins on March 13, and coincides with the start of free agency. Between now and then, the Steelers figure to make a couple more decisions about what the roster will look like, including the signing of a couple more of their pending unrestricted free agents. There are a few other loose ends to tie up before then as well.

Position: Tackle

Total Positional Figure: 8

Additions: 0

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

Alejandro Villanueva: Bar none the best season of Villanueva’s four-year career, he become one of the top pass-blocking left tackles in the NFL in 2018, giving up very few pressures. His size has its pros and cons that show up over the course of a game. He will turn 31 early in the 2019 season.

Marcus Gilbert: Entering his ninth season, Gilbert is coming off consecutive seasons in which he missed the majority of the year. He is in the final year of his contract and there are those who want the team to consider cutting him, but Art Rooney II suggested that wasn’t the plan. He is still the best right tackle when healthy.

Matt Feiler: This year’s Chris Hubbard, Feiler started 10 games in place of Gilbert and held down the right side of the offense. He’s not as talented or frankly as good as Gilbert, but if the team cut the veteran, he looked like he could start.

Chukwuma Okorafor: Drafted in the third round, Okorafor is the highest the Steelers have drafted a lineman since David DeCastro in the first round in 2012. He held his own as a 21-year-old rookie, even starting a game and not looking out of place. He was a tackle-eligible as well.

Zach Banner: Added in training camp, Banner, the 6’8”, 360 son of Lincoln Kennedy, showed enough to encourage the team to carry him on the roster all year despite being a weekly inactive. They’ll want to see growth from the 2017 fourth-round pick this year.

Jerald Hawkins: Entering his fourth season, Hawkins has now spent two of his first three years on injured reserve. 2018 was supposed to be a big year for him, moving up to the swing tackle, and he would have had a shot at starting 11 games that he missed out on. Heading into a contract year now, he will compete for that role.

R.J. Prince: A 2018 college free agent signing, Prince spent all of 2018 on the Steelers’ practice squad. He is capable of playing both inside and out but is listed at tackle.

Joseph Cheek: Cheek signed with the Steelers in April of last year after being waived by the Browns. Originally a 2016 college free agent, he’s bounced around a lot in the past three years. He spent the year on injured reserve after reverting there from being waived injured.

Offseason StrategyDo nothing.

This is the deepest position on the roster, so much so that Feiler will probably kick inside to guard, provided that they leave Gilbert where he is and let him play out his final year. Okorafor, Feiler, Hawkins, and perhaps even Banner will compete for the swing tackle job, and at least one of them will have to be released. Of the group, only Hawkins wouldn’t have practice squad eligibility, but Banner may be the least likely to be picked up by another team.

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