Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: OL Derwin Gray
Stock Value: Up
The fact alone that Derwin Gray survived the entirety of the regular season on the Steelers’ practice squad and was re-signed to a Reserve/Futures contract was already a good sign for the 2019 seventh-round draft pick out of Maryland.
With the retirement of Ramon Foster and the departure of B.J. Finney in free agency—combined with the losses of Fred Johnson and Patrick Morris off waivers during the year—he figures to have at least a reasonable chance of competing for a spot on the 53-man roster in 2020.
As it currently stands, the ‘definites’ for the offensive line room looks like this: Alejandro Villanueva, Stefen Wisniewski, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Matt Feiler, Zach Banner, and Chukwuma Okorafor. That’s seven players, meaning that there is room for two more. They prefer to carry nine over eight, and typically only carry fewer than nine when an injury arises suddenly.
In other words, even assuming the team drafts a lineman, which is likely, there is still a spot for Gray, who is capable of playing both tackle and guard positions, and possibly even has the flexibility to play center in an emergency, a possible Chris Hubbard type.
The current other candidates on the 90-man roster are only J.C. Hassenauer and Christian DiLauro. Hassenauer spent the offseason with the team but did not make the practice squad. He was later signed after Morris was promoted during Pouncey’s suspension. After Morris was claimed off waivers and Pouncey was injured heading into the finale, Hassenauer spent Week 17 on the 53.
As for DiLauro, he was signed mid-season onto the practice squad after Johnson was claimed off waivers. Another college tackle who is inside-outside-capable, he is already on his fourth team after going undrafted out of Illinois in 2018, first joining the Steelers on October 15.
Unless the Steelers draft two linemen, which isn’t impossible, I would consider Gray a favorite within this group to claim a ninth and final spot on the 53-man roster, though as the one inactive.