2020 South Side Questions: Is Jerald Hawkins Finally Establishing Himself As An NFL Player?

Steelers draft picks Derwin Gray, Jerald Hawkins

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Is Jerald Hawkins finally establishing himself as an NFL player?

Jerald Hawkins had plenty of talent coming out of LSU in 2016, but injuries played a major role in his struggles to establish himself. He spent his rookie year on injured reserve, after all, after suffering a shoulder injury during training camp. He suffered a torn quad in OTAs in 2018.

Thus, as a result, we really only have one season to go on, that of 2017. Due to injuries, he suited up as a backup tackle at times that year, and eventually, he would be used as a tackle-eligible. He saw 48 snaps in that role over five games.

Due to an abundance of talent at tackle last year, Hawkins ended up being traded, sent to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he would log three snaps in one game last year with Tampa Bay. Training camp observations indicated that he had struggled to make it back from his quad injury.

Hawkins founds himself on the Houston Texans’ practice squad to begin the 2020 season, and after Zach Banner went down in the opener this year, the Steelers signed him, bringing him in to serve as the backup tackle, and in short order they got him on the field as the tackle-eligible again.

So far this year, he’s logged 41 snaps this season, even rather briefly filling in at right tackle on Sunday. The difference between his play in 2017 and this year is that he has had more highlights and played more consistently.

But what about the future? Is he going to be in their plans in 2021? Can he serve as a legitimate backup tackle? Can he salvage his career as a quality offensive lineman, even if he doesn’t ever emerge as a starter?

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