The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks a slight improvement from the past two seasons, during which they did not even qualify for the playoffs altogether. They have now done four seasons without securing a victory beyond regular season play.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
They did manage to go 12-4 during the regular season, and secured their first AFC North title since 2017, posting a new franchise record by opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, but of course it all fell apart after that. Their only victory after that required a 17-point comeback.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2020 season.
Player: Jerald Hawkins
Experience: 5 Years
It’s not often that a draft picks ends up circling back after first parting ways, though it’s not necessarily very uncommon, either. For it to happen three times in one year is certainly out of the ordinary, but that’s what the Pittsburgh Steelers did, reuniting with Joshua Dobbs and Sean Davis after they failed to make their rosters, and then one game into the 2020 season, re-signing Jerald Hawkins due to injury.
Hawkins was originally a fourth-round pick out of LSU in 2016, an undergrad who had a bit of an injury history himself, which would follow him into the NFL. He spent two of his first three seasons on the Reserve/Injured List.
In the final year of his rookie contract, coming off of injury, he was in an open competition for the starting right tackle job, but he was so far behind the pack, and they had so much depth at that point, that he was traded at the end of the preseason in 2019.
He would go on to play a whopping three snaps for the Buccaneers that season, and he was on the Texans’ practice squad to start out last year before the Steelers signed him, a move made necessary by Zach Banner suffering a torn ACL.
Chukwuma Okorafor ascended into the starting lineup, and Hawkins was signed to serve as the backup swing tackle. He only had to play a couple of snaps in his natural position, but he also played a fair bit as a tackle-eligible, something that he did back in 2017 as well, his lone healthy season in Pittsburgh up to that point.
Hawkins actually played more snaps in 2020 than he had in his entire career up to that point combined, logging 71 snaps. Now an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers should be interested in a low-cost reunion, given the potential issues with tackle depth. If he doesn’t make the roster again, it will have cost them next to nothing, if he even gets a very small signing bonus.