The Pittsburgh Steelers traded tackle Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago and that means the team now has three players set to do battle this offseason for the right to be the starting right tackle. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Monday at the annual league meetings in Phoenix, Arizona that tackles Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor and Jerald Hawkins are currently the three players set to battle for the starting right tackle spot this offseason.
“It’s an open spot,” Tomlin said when asked if the starting right tackle spot is currently up for grabs, according to Teresa Varley of steelers.com. “Obviously, we were pleased with what Matt was able to do last year in a limited capacity. We were pleased with what Chuks was able to give when he had an opportunity on a smaller sample size. Two talented young guys who are ascending. You have to acknowledge that and give them an opportunity to establish roles and that’s what the process is about.
“But you don’t exclude guys like Jerald Hawkins. Hawk has had some misfortune in terms of injury the last several years, but that’s a guy when healthy has been a positive contributor and a guy who has shown upside, and still a relatively young guy.”
Tomlin’s reply isn’t overly surprising, nor is the list of three tackles he named that figure to battle for the starting right tackle job this offseason.
Currently, Feiler will likely be the starting right tackle when the team starts their annual OTA practices in May as he started the most games at that spot last season while Gilbert was sidelined with his injury. In total, Feiler, a former undrafted free agent out Bloomsburg University, started 10 games last season and he played reasonably well in the process.
As for Okorafor, who was selected by the Steelers last year in the third-round out of Western Michigan, he started just one game last season at right tackle and that was because Feiler was sidelined with an injury.
The third player that Tomlin named on Monday, Hawkins, spent the entire 2018 season on the team’s Reserve/Injured list due to a torn quad he suffered during a May OTA practice. Hawkins’ rookie 2016 season was also wiped out by a shoulder injury that required surgery. While the LSU product and former fourth-round draft pick did play almost 50 offensive snaps in 2017, nearly all of those were as a blocking tight end on the end of the line. In fact, Hawkins only logged one offensive snap at tackle in 2017 and that was on the left side.
While Tomlin didn’t mention him on Monday, the Steelers also have tackle Zach Banner currently under contract for the 2019 season,. Banner, a former fourth-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts, was on the Steelers 53-man roster all of last season. He only dressed for one game last season, however, and failed to log an offensive snap in that contest.