Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: OL Derwin Gray
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After the Steelers lost Curtis Riley from the practice squad, they had a new name among their four protected players from last week in Derwin Gray, a 2019 seventh-round pick who spent all of last season on the practice squad. He may have gotten protected anyway, however, due to the injuries along the offensive line. In fact, he may even be elevated this week.
There is a very realistic scenario in which the Steelers only have seven healthy offensive linemen on the 53-man roster on Sunday, with David DeCastro and Stefen Wisniewski nursing injuries that are hoped not to be long-term (if they were going to take several weeks, surely they would have been placed on injured reserve).
Teams can dress eight offensive linemen this year with the eighth lineman occupying what would otherwise be an unused gameday active helmet, comparable to the old emergency quarterback rule. Since they don’t have a healthy eighth lineman on the 53-man roster to dress, they can get one from the practice squad.
And given the fact that the Steelers chose to protect Derwin Gray from being signed from the practice squad, that is a good indication that they view him as the most valuable candidate right now, above the other two offensive linemen on the practice squad, Anthony Coyle and Jarron Jones.
Gray is capable of playing either guard or tackle, though he only played guard during the 2019 preseason and training camp. Since we didn’t get to watch this year, we have no idea if he played much at tackle in training camp this year, but he was a tackle all throughout his playing career leading up to the NFL.
In the event that both DeCastro and Wisniewski cannot go on Sunday, Kevin Dotson would start at right guard, with J.C. Hassenauer acting as the top interior reserve and the newly-re-signed Jerald Hawkins as the top tackle reserve.
Presumably, anyway. It’s possible that the Steelers would rather trust Hassenauer only to play center, and if there were an injury at guard, they may ask Gray to play. Given that Hawkins is just working his way back into the fold, it’s not inconceivable that Gray could even be asked to play tackle in an emergency—though at that point Matt Feiler would probably kick outside instead.