The Pittsburgh Steelers’ depth chart up and down the roster took a number of hits this offseason, whether it was through cap-induced releases, players retiring, or others leaving in free agency—either because the team wasn’t interested or could not afford to keep them and stay within budget.
With four veterans acquired via unrestricted free agency and trade and six players selected during the 2010 NFL Draft, they were able to address some of those losses. Other holes, or ‘wants’, may have to be filled from those returning from last season.
The Steelers lost a starting lineman and one of their principle reserves this year, both along the interior. That’s not to mention two reserves they lost on the waiver wire during the 2019 season. While they signed Stefen Wisniewski and drafted Kevin Dotson, there’s no such thing as having too many good lineman.
One player they’re hoping can emerge this year is 2019 seventh-round pick Derwin Gray out of Maryland, who now has three former teammates and his former head coach employed by the organization, all being brought in since the start of the offseason.
While he failed to make the 53-man roster as a rookie, he did last the year on the practice squad. In hindsight, he understands that it was the right move, as he told Teresa Varley for the team’s website in a reflective and self-aware exchange.
“The coaching staff understood why I wasn’t out there, why I needed that time”, he said. “I understood I needed the time. It was helpful for me moving forward. It was the best thing for me. It was like a redshirt year. I needed that year. I could have tried to rush out there and play but I don’t think that would have been a smart move for me”.
The reason it was a smart move? “I was coming off of surgery still in college”, he said. Gray had knee surgery in 2018, and basically played injured the entire year, even being forced to miss two games. Arguably, he was never 100 percent even through last season.
The Terrapin tackle spent his preseason snaps playing at guard, the Steelers trying to expand his repertoire. He should become at least a four-position player, with the possibility of even playing center like Chris Hubbard in the event of an emergency (provided that he doesn’t snap the ball into his butt).
After the Steelers lost Fred Johnson off waivers last year, they never bothered to replaced him on the 53-man roster, going the rest of the season with eight linemen. Gray is hoping to be that ninth lineman this year. Or perhaps even the eighth lineman, who would get to dress this year. Healthier than he’s been in a couple years, it’s plausible. He’s an easy guy to root for.