Steelers Must Figure Out Who Swing Tackle Is With Jerald Hawkins Out

With the Pittsburgh Steelers getting offensive lineman Kevin Dotson back from the Reserve/Covid-19 List at the same time that they placed Jerald Hawkins on it, it raises an interesting question regarding what they intend to do on Wednesday—and possibly Monday as well—regarding their gameday offensive line depth.

Now that they have swapped one lineman for another, they still have eight offensive linemen on the 53-man roster that they can dress. But is it a group of eight that is most suited to suit up? Of the three reserve linemen, they have all been used as interior players.

Dotson himself is currently exclusively a guard, at least at the NFL level, although he did have some high school and college experience at tackle. J.C. Hassenauer is primarily a center who can expand to guard, and is not outside-capable.

Then there is Derwin Gray, who is a bit of a wildcard. Even though he was a left tackle in college through his four years at Maryland, as far as we know, the Steelers have used him exclusively at guard since he was drafted in 2019.

The problem is, we didn’t have access to training camp this year, and there was no preseason. We also don’t see what’s going on during the week in-season, so we have no idea if the team has since flexed him out to be able to serve as a tackle.

If they do feel comfortable with his ability to serve as the swing tackle, then there is no story here. But if they don’t, the Steelers have three tackle-capable offensive linemen on the practice squad. They would likely elevate one of them and dress him over Gray as the eighth lineman.

Two of those three have been with the team since the Spring, those being a pair of first-year players whom they signed from the XFL, Anthony Coyle and Jarron Jones, the latter having been a defensive end conversion project. They also signed rookie Brandon Walton to the practice squad back in September after Gray was promoted to the 53-man roster following Stefen Wisniewski’s injury.

Frankly, I’m very interested to see what the Steelers do because I feel like it would say a lot about how they view Gray. If they give him the opportunity to dress for the game as the team’s swing tackle, who would have to log snaps on the outside in the event of injury, then that bodes well for him.

If not, and they continue to view him exclusively as a guard at the NFL level, then that obviously limits his ceiling a fair bit. But we’ll have the answers to this question—perhaps a question only I am interested in—soon enough.

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