Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: OL Jerald Hawkins
Stock Value: Up
I feel as though I can go a number of ways with this one, but I’m going to choose to focus on one element in Jerald Hawkins’ story in particular. The revelation that he has begun to receive work at the guard position is huge for him, and I think that outweighs anything else.
Even though the team has discussed Hawkins as in competition, along with Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor, for the starting right tackle job, he was always the underdog in that race, and getting work at guard gives him a much better chance of sticking to the roster should he fail to surprise.
On the other hand, Hawkins also admitted that he feels he is only working at roughly 70 percent capacity at this point, just a bit over a year removed from suffering a torn quad that ended his 2018 season long before it ever began. Had that injury never happened, he might be in Feiler’s position right now and even in discussion for a contract extension in August.
But we can’t turn back the clock on that one, and so we—and he—must move forward into the unknown. Unknown, as in his job prospects. If he can show competence at all four tackle and guard positions over the course of this summer, then he should be primed to make the roster, primarily as the number two interior reserve alongside B.J. Finney.
The depth on the outside is stronger. Whoever loses the starting right tackle job behind Feiler and Okorafor will be the backup tackle already, and there are still others like Zach Banner and rookie Derwin Gray—the latter of whom has reportedly also been playing both outside and inside—to fill up the back end of that depth chart.
Working at guard is not going to help him win a starting job, but it will help him win a job, and give him better odds to do so than without that work. Realistically, he probably would have already been working at guard to an extent last season had he not been injured in OTAs.