Don’t call it favoritism just because Fred Johnson or Garrett Brumfield are undrafted offensive linemen, just as Ramon Foster was a decade ago. Foster is pretty good at calling his shot for training camp sleepers. In speaking with Steelers.com’s Mike Prisuta, the veteran guard named those two guys are players to keep an eye on going forward.
“I’m going with a couple of linemen this year,” Foster told Prisuta. “Fred, the kid from Florida, I got my eye on. Also Brumfield, He’s an undrafted guy out of LSU. First and foremost, all young guys mentally have it way better than we did in terms of learning the playbook. As far as them being able to bring it to the field too, those guys stick out to me.”
Both players were signed shortly after the draft ended. Johnson received the second highest second bonus – $15,000 – of any Steeler UDFA, trailing only CB Alexander Myres. He has guard/tackle versatility that will come in handy for a guy trying to battle for a roster spot. At 6’7 with 34 inch arms, he certainly has the frame to stick at right tackle, too. He started 33 career games for the Gators, including 13 his senior season. Though a big guy, he’s nimble and moves well in space, an attractive combination.
Brumfield is a bit of the opposite. Smaller, squattier at 6’3 289 with a nasty disposition, earning the nickname “Bruiser” in college. A big-time recruit out of high school, he disappointed a bit at LSU. He started just 22 games throughout his career. A knee injury limited him to just nine of them in 2018 and on tape, it was obvious he wasn’t fully healthy. The Steelers brought him in for a pre-draft visit, the only offensive linemen to tour the facility.
It’s shaping up to be one heck of a battle for potentially the final offensive line spots on the 53. The starting five are obvious aside from the Matt Feiler/Chukwuma Okorafor battle at RT. The loser will join B.J. Finney holding the top backup spots. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. Jerald Hawkins has landed on IR in two of his three seasons but the talent has been evident since his first training camp. Zach Banner impressed the coaching staff enough to make the roster last year, though he never played a down. There’s 7th round pick Derwin Gray, already logging time at four positions to increase his value. Don’t forget about Patrick Morris, a UDFA last year who stuck on the practice squad with impressive strength and mobility.
Toss in Johnson and Brumfield and you have thirteen offensive linemen who have a chance to make the roster. That is ridiculously rare depth and a testament to the front office’s investment in the position. Pittsburgh also has a strong history of finding UDFA linemen who come in and contribute. Foster is the poster child for that but joins Finney, Alejandro Villaneva, and Chris Hubbard. Perhaps one of the two Foster named will be added that list in a few seasons.