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: C Patrick Morris
Stock Value: Down
As the offseason opened, Patrick Morris was clearly situated as the team’s number three center in terms of preference, which would obviously have been an asset for his bid to make the 53-man roster this year. The number two center, of course, is B.J. Finney, but with David DeCastro missing OTAs to be with his newborn, Morris spent a lot of time running with the second-team offense.
But he wasn’t the only one seeing those snaps. newcomer J.C. Hassenauer, who was signed from the Alliance of American Football, split those second-team reps with him, which suggests that he is going to be in competition for that number three center position, where there previously wasn’t much of any.
To the best of my knowledge, the only other player on the roster who had had any meaningful practice at center was Matt Feiler, who only started taking some reps there last year. Without Hassenauer, the only thing Morris probably would have needed to do to position himself for a potential roster spot is look like a rosterable player.
Now he will also have to demonstrate that he is a more capable player than Hassenauer, an Alabama product who spent some time with the Atlanta Falcons a year ago as a former college free agent. Morris, out of TCU, was a 2018 college free agent signing of the Steelers.
He did well in the preseason last year, obviously well enough to convince Pittsburgh to keep him on the practice squad all of last year, but we already saw earlier this offseason that that doesn’t mean a great deal. They waived R.J. Prince, the other 2018 college free agent lineman who was on the practice squad last year, in order to sign Damian Prince following rookie minicamp. He later signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
But will the Steelers even keep either Morris or Hassenauer on the 53-man roster? is Feiler’s presence enough for them to feel comfortable going light there if necessary? Though he started 10 games at tackle, Feiler was technically the number two backup interior lineman (and a healthy scratch when not starting), with Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner the backup tackles.