As we’ve done in previous years, we’re taking a look at those Pittsburgh Steelers under futures contracts for the 2020 offseason. We’ll focus this on the future players who spent no or limited time on the team during 2019.
Christian DiLauro/OL Illinois – 6’6 300
To be fair, DiLauro spent about half the season on the team’s practice squad, signed mid-October and sticking around for the entire season. That move came a day after Fred Johnson was unable to be stashed on the practice squad after getting waived, stolen away by the Cincinnati Bengals.
He was a 3 1/2 year starter for the Fighting Illini, most of that coming at offensive tackle. But he kicked to guard during his senior year and was affectionately called “Mr. Versatile” for playing every position except for center during his college career. At some points, he was playing multiple spots during the same game. In high school, he even played tight end, catching 21 passes as a senior.
In an interview with the News-Gazette in 2017, he talked about what it’s like move around the way he did.
“For me, we’ve preached knowing all the positions. Being able to go in and be plugged in at any time, it gives the coaches a little bit of insurance that ‘Hey, he knows what he’s doing. He can play anywhere.’ Looking at the next level, scouts and coaches know I can go anywhere.”
it’s literal to say he’s played (almost) everywhere along the offensive trenches. In total, he made 38 career starts for Illinois.
Here’s how NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein described him coming out of school.
“Long-legged swing tackle candidate with good foot quickness and athletic ability, but a poor anchor that may prevent him from handling an NFL bullrush. DiLauro has experience at both tackle spots and handled a start at guard this season so he offers roster flexibility, but unless he gets much stronger, making a roster will be a challenge. He could become a candidate for time on a practice squad while he hits the weights.”
Cleveland signed him as a UDFA following the 2018 draft. After initially being cut, then signed to the practice squad in September, he was released again and remained a free agent for a few weeks before latching on with the 49ers. He was waived by them for good last August. Houston was his next plane ticket and bounced on and off the roster until cut outright October 1st. Pittsburgh signed him two weeks later.
He’s clearly looking for stability he hasn’t had since college. The Steelers are another organization, scheme, set of coaches. Even his position seems undefined. Will he play tackle? Guard? Add center to his resume? For DiLauro, hopefully his uniform remains the same. There will be an opening on the back end of the roster. Pittsburgh’s o-line depth has been gutted and will continue to whittle away assuming BJ Finney hits free agency and Ramon Foster is a veteran cap casualty. Johnson has gone to Cincinnati and even Patrick Morris, though I won’t miss him terribly, was poached away by Mike Munchak and the Broncos.
His current competition? There’s not much there. 7th round pick Derwin Gray will look to make a jump in his second year, focusing on guard after playing tackle exclusively tackle at Maryland. JC Hassenauer was brought back late in the year, capable of playing center or guard, but is a small frame and lacks anchor and functional strength. Assuming Finney and Foster are gone, there’s no doubt the team will add before and/or during the draft. When it comes time for our free agency preview, I have several underwhelming names to toss your way, just like how Kevin Colbert likes it. The draft class is top heavy at tackle, relatively weak along the interior, but there will still be options for Pittsburgh on Day Two or early Day Three.
It’s doubtful DiLauro will be at the top of anyone’s list heading into Latrobe this July, assuming he even makes it that far. But there is an opening, even if it’s a crack, for the 53 and a decent chance to make noise on the practice squad with a good summer showing.