Keep, Keep, Cut: Hassenauer, Gray, Jones

If you’re like me you’d love the chance to be a General Manager. We all have our opinions on players throughout the draft process and throughout the season of who we would prefer to have on the team or active roster. I thought this might be a fun process to look at a group of players give some background information on each player and see who you would keep.

I’ll give you three players either from a position group or some other roster scenario and you decide which two you will keep and one player to cut. At the end of this process we’ll have a good idea of who you think should be on the roster.

Offensive Line

The skill positions get all the love from fans but you aren’t going to win unless you have a good offensive line. The Steelers moved on from veteran Ramon Foster in the off season and need to replace the veteran who started 156 games in his 11 year career.

The first opportunity to fill the hole left by Foster at left guard will be given to 2019 right tackle Matt Feiler. If he earns that role there will be a spot open at right tackle where Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor are prepared to duke it out.

They also added players from free agency (Stefen Wisniewski), from the draft (Kevin Dotson) and from the XFL (Jarron Jones, John Keenoy) to compete for spots on the roster.

Despite the shuffle along the line it may be hard for some to make the roster.  The core of the offensive line looks to be set.

The Locks

The interior offensive line returns Maurkice Pouncey at center and David DeCastro at right guard. Feiler will get the first shot at left guard with completion from Wisniewski and Dotson. Wisniewski can also play center and will be a valuable veteran inside.  Dotson played right guard in college and has also been working on learning the center position.

At the tackle position Alejandro Villanueva will be the left tackle and Okorafor and Banner will fight it out to be the right tackle.  Banner saw quite a bit of action last season getting 216 snaps on offense lining up as tight end primarily in power running situations. He has been working hard in the offseason to improve he physique. Okorafor is entering his third year on the roster and has 4 starts so far. He got the nod at right tackle last year against the Rams when Feiler kicked inside to guard. He has dealt with a shoulder injury and is aiming to come into camp pain free.

That gives us eight linemen that look to have the lead if not locked in barring any injuries. The team will likely keep at least two lineman on the practice squad.


J.C. Hassenauer – After getting some professional game experiences in the AAF he was brought in and eventually signed to the practice squad. He finished the year on the active roster when Pouncey was injured.

On the positive side, he was on their practice squad in 2019 and was resigned after the season.  He is a center primarily but got some work at guard during practice last year. He looks to be a solid developmental prospect.

On the negative side, there are many ahead of him that do or can play center. If the roster unfolds like it I outlined above IOL looks pretty full with a need at OT that may take priority on the practice squad.

Derwin Gray – The 2019 7th round pick out of Maryland where he played left tackle.  He played at both tackle spots and both guard spots in preseason practices last year.  He spent the entire year on the practice squad.

On the positive side, the Steelers liked him enough to keep him around all season.  He has positional flexibility but is likely going to be best at guard in the NFL.

On the negative side, the Steelers brought in two players who can play guard this offseason making the active roster a long shot.  With all the injuries in the NFL no other team poached him during the season. The positional transition is difficult for some and may not work for Gray.

Jarron Jones – One of the Steeler signings from the XFL where he played defensive tackle the position he played in college.  Prior to the XFL he bounced around NFL practice squads as teams tried to convert him to offensive tackle.

On the positive side, he as good size with very good arm length (35 1/2 inches). The Steelers had success developing players into tackle from other positions.  He has shown enough to warrant the NFL to keep him around for 3 years.

On the negative side, he has been a part of 25% of the NFL teams.  Eight teams (Giants, Seahawks, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Redskins, Lions Bills and now the Steelers) have been intrigued but not enough to keep him around.

Time to Choose

Again we’re looking for practice squad guys. On the staff’s way too early roster predictions Dave kept the locks listed above on the active roster with Gray, Jones and Christian Montano on the PS. Matthew kept Gray on his active roster and Hassenauer on the PS. Alex kept the 8 locks with Hassenauer and Jones on the PS.

I am going to go with Hassenauer and Jones.

Previous Roster Decisions


QB – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges

RB/FB – James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Derek Watt, Jaylen Samuels

WR – JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Deon Cain, Saeed Blacknall

TE – Vince McDonald, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry


DL – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, Chris Wormley, Daniel McCullers

ILB –  Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysees Gilbert, Robert Spillane

OLB – T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Ola Adeniyi, Alex Highsmith

DB – Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Alexander Myers

Practice Squad Candidates – Lynch, Davis, Henry Mondeaux, Josiah Coatney, Kerrith Whyte, Trey Edmunds, Skipper, Lockhart, Scotland-Williamson, Rader, Trajan Bandy

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