With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Position: Offensive Line
Up for Grabs: Depth
In the Mix: Derwin Gray, J.C. Hassenauer, John Keenoy, Christian Montano, Jarron Jones, Anthony Coyle, Christian DiLauro
The following players are those whom I believe to be locks or near-locks to make the 2020 53-man roster: Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Stefen Wisniewski, and Kevin Dotson. That’s eight players there, with I would say seven very strong locks, and Dotson as a fourth-round rookie having a very high probability of being given an edge as well to make it as an eighth lineman.
If you want, though, you can throw Dotson’s name on the list for the players in the mix as well.
The other eight players will be competing for, at most, one roster spot, if there even is one. Of the group, only J.C. Hassenauer has spent any time on a 53-man roster, and that was due to Maurkice Pouncey being injured and Patrick Morris being claimed off waivers, dressing as the backup center for the season finale behind B.J. Finney.
Gray is a second-year player in the Steelers’ system, a seventh-round pick who spent the whole 2019 season on the practice squad. He played tackle in college and guard in training camp last season, so he has position flexibility. Christian DiLauro was signed to the practice squad during the year, and also has flexibility.
The remaining players—John Keenoy, Jarron Jones, Anthony Coyle, and Christian Montano—were all acquired later. Montano is an undrafted rookie, while the others are former undrafted players who spent time playing in the XFL prior to the draft.
Even if the Steelers choose to carry only eight linemen on the 53-man roster, which is a possibility, they are likely to carry perhaps three linemen, maybe even four, on the 16-man practice squad. They almost always have a minimum of 10 linemen in total, and they will want to have an extra or two this year.