Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: T Jerald Hawkins
Stock Value: Down
It certainly doesn’t appear likely that fourth-year tackle Jerald Hawkins is going to seriously bid for the starting right tackle job any time soon, even though he was mentioned by name as a part of the competition at the start of the offseason.
Matt Feiler has cemented himself as the clear early favorite with Chukwuma Okorafor working his way into the conversation, which will be primarily determined by the preseason performances. But right now, Hawkins doesn’t necessarily even look like somebody who is a roster lock.
Some have observed that he doesn’t look like he’s fully healthy, or fully confident in himself, the latter being the observation of Craig Wolfley during a recent Steelers Live segment. Of course, he suffered a season-ending quad injury in OTAs in 2018, so these are still his first real reps, particularly reps with pads on, since the end of the 2017 season.
It is possible that he will play with more confidence and polish as he gets more reps under his belt this training camp and into the preseason. He has already played in the NFL during the regular season, back in his second year, even including a small handful of reps at tackle, though mostly as a tackle-eligible tight end.
But with tackle depth including the third-year Zach Banner, as well as rookies Derwin Gray and Damian Prince, it’s not clear that the team will need him if he is not performing, for whatever reason, to the best of his abilities.
He has been pretty consistently working with the second-team offense, at left tackle. During that time, he’s more than had his hands full with the likes of Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and with Tuzar Skipper as well, a pair of former undrafted players out of Toledo, a MAC school.
It hasn’t been all bad. Alex Kozora has noted a few impressive wins during individual reps here and there that show what kind of player he can be. From this point forward, it’s about stacking those quality reps, gaining confidence in both himself and his health, and eliminating the negative plays.