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: Down
If the drafting of Kevin Dotson sent the stock of J.C. Hassenauer plummeting, then it has to be true as well of Derwin Gray, the first-year former seventh-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft—even if this past month or so has seen the Steelers acquire three of his former Maryland teammates, two through the draft and one from the XFL.
A college tackle, Gray exclusively played guard for the team last offseason, a fact I feel obligated to now emphasize after Alex Kozora reminded me that it was not Gray but Fred Johnson whom the Steelers were playing across the formation.
Nevertheless, I do believe that Gray has four-position value, similar to Matt Feiler, as he tries to make the 53-man roster this year as the team’s eighth or ninth lineman. I do feel he is well-positioned to at least remain on the practice squad for another year, especially now that there are 12 practice squad spots, but Dotson’s drafting clearly makes his road to the 53-man roster tougher.
One thing that makes it slightly easier is the new CBA, if the Steelers want to continue to limit his work to guard, because both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have said that the new eighth-lineman rule makes single-position reserves more valuable than they were a year ago. But, again, I suspect that they will ultimately view him as a guard-tackle prospect. Kelvin Beachum was another college tackle they began at guard, and then he ended up becoming a franchise left tackle.
Not saying that will be Gray, but for his part, he did say recently that he and the coaching staff both recognized that he needed a redshirt season, because he still wasn’t fully, 100 percent healthy from an injury that he suffered in college, and which he played through during his senior year.
The Steelers do have a great history of developing low-pedigreed players, but so much of that has to be credited to Mike Munchak. Now it’s up to Shaun Sarrett to turn some of these newer faces into contributors—whenever he gets a chance to get his hands on them.