The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor, though some have remained largely static.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp, this time back at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Interior Offensive Line
Total Positional Figure: 10
Kevin Dotson: Kevin Dotson is now one of the main figures in whom the Steelers are putting their hopes for the future of the offensive line, as a second-year former fourth-round pick. He needs to be a home run as they transition to a new era along the offensive line, entering the lineup at left guard.
J.C. Hassenauer: Originally coming to the Steelers via the AAF, Hassenauer started four games last season: Two at guard and two at center. He will compete with B.J. Finney to start at center, along with any rookie that they may add.
Joe Haeg: The Steelers’ biggest free agent, at least before Trai Turner, while Haeg was likely signed primarily to provide depth at tackle, he also plays guard, and has started there, including last season due to injury.
B.J. Finney: Finney is a player the Steelers are obviously very familiar with. He will compete to start at center, having started five games there previously, as well as seven at guard.
Rashaad Coward: While Coward, a former defensive lineman, has primarily played tackle, he has some experience at guard, and reportedly logged the snaps on the right side during OTAs and minicamp with DeCastro unavailable.
Anthony Coyle: Added a year ago as a first-year signing, Coyle played some guard in the XFL, even though he’s listed at tackle.
John Leglue: Leglue has both guard and tackle experience, logging guard snaps with the Broncos in the 2019 preseason. He signed to the practice squad late last season.
Aviante Collins: Collins has the most experience of these last few players, logging one start at guard with the Vikings. His training is at tackle, where he would be more comfortable.
Trai Turner: The Steelers signed the veteran, five-time Pro Bowler to a one-year deal after parting with DeCastro on Thursday. He will be a plug-and-play starter at right guard, but it could be just a rental for the 2021 season.
Kendrick Green: A third-round draft pick, Green projects, so far, to be the Steelers’ opening-day center, even though he is more experienced at guard. He will have to compete with Finney and Hassenauer for the job.
David DeCastro: In an upset, the Steelers recently parted with David DeCastro on Thursday, saving his nearly $9 million on base salary. He reportedly may need a third surgery on his ankle, and is contemplating retirement. He is the last remaining experienced veteran.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
The entire interior offensive line will consist of new starters, with Maurkice Pouncey retiring, Matt Feiler leaving in free agency, and DeCastro waived due to injury, possibly to retire as well. While Turner is a given to start at right guard and play well, provided that he’s healthy, Dotson on the left side has to show that he can hold up over a full season.
Then there’s the question of the center position. It would be great if Green is able to right away take the reins and make it his own, but that’s not likely to be the reality. If he is not ready to play there right away, then they’ll have to settle for Finney or Hassenauer.
It must also be determined who stays and who goes. Most likely, one of Finney, Hassenauer, and Coward will not make the 53-man roster, with Okorafor, Banner, Haeg, and Moore set at tackle. Dotson, Green, and Turner are 100% locks, so then you have two spots for the remainder. Finney and Hassenauer have center-guard flexibility, while Coward is guard-tackle-capable.