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: T Jerald Hawkins
Stock Value: Up
While we already know that Matt Feiler has been working with the first-team defense, and we can probably assume that Chukwuma Okorafor has been the next man up, there have been positive reports about all of the young tackles on the roster.
Hawkins probably is the longest shot in the mix to win the starting job. But the reality is that he is a fourth-year player who has spent two of his first three seasons on injured reserve, and has missed so much time that he might even count his blessings for still having a job, which will again be at risk this summer even as he competes for a starting job.
But according to his peers, Hawkins has seemingly been looking better, and more confident, and stronger, every day of practice. For a player coming off of a serious injury, even if it was a year ago, you can’t ask for more than incremental daily progress once you get yourself going again.
That’s the first step. He has a handful of more practices to get his sea legs back before the break and then the real competition starts at training camp. The real question will be what sort of percentage of the first-team snaps he is going to get.
Mike Tomlin did name Feiler, Okorafor, and Hawkins all together as the players who would be in competition to start at the right tackle position that was vacated when the Steelers traded Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals, but it feels as though he will have to fight for the scraps.
After all, the other two players have had starting experience already, and without the injury history that Hawkins does. But if he can show that he is getting back to where he left off before the injury, that would go a long way toward making himself a very serious candidate for the job later this summer.