The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The offensive line depth will get a boost from a second-year jump out of Derwin Gray.
Explanation: After losing some pipeline prospects last season in Fred Johnson and Patrick Morris, it would be huge for the Steelers to find somebody to develop in a guy like Derwin Gray, a 2019 seventh-round pick. They do have a history of finding success developing late-round and undrafted players, and he did stick to the practice squad all of last season.
Chris Hubbard. Matt Feiler. B.J. Finney. Alejandro Villanueva. All of these players were former undrafted free agents who spent either their rookie season or their first season in Pittsburgh on the team’s practice squad, before making the 53-man roster later. In Feiler’s case, it took a bit longer, but now he is a starter.
Gray showed the Steelers enough to make the team’s initial practice squad and to stay there all year long. He is capable of playing both guard and tackle, so no matter how the offensive line unfolds this offseason, his versatility will help him stick somewhere.
The Maryland product did not get as many opportunities to play or practice last season as I hoped, but that was partly because of Fred Johnson’s success as a rookie undrafted free agent, and of course he went on to make the 53-man roster. With depth now at issue, he will have more opportunities to practice, and to show coaches he can contribute.
Mike Munchak was the one who turned those non-pedigreed linemen into quality players, and he’s gone. Shaun Sarrett still has yet to prove himself, and Chukwuma Okorafor’s lack of development in his second season doesn’t speak well for his resume.
Even if the Steelers take some losses at the position in the coming weeks, they are likely to make sure they address it, probably signing a low-level street free agent and then adding somebody through the draft as well. That is going to push Gray back down the rungs. Aside from that, there was nothing particularly distinguishing within the snaps that he did play a year ago.