The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 offseason practices concluded last week. Next up for the team is their annual training camp, which should get underway in the latter part of July. Ahead of training camp, we will preview the team’s 90-man roster three players at a time for you as part of a 30-post series. This Steelers 90-man roster preview that includes outlooks for each player goes alphabetically by last name to make it easy to follow along with.
The next three players we will preview today are Ulysees Gilbert III, Joe Haden, and Joe Haeg.
ILB Ulysees Gilbert III — Gilbert, who was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Akron, had another disappointing season in 2020 and primarily because he couldn’t stay healthy. He played all of 33 defensive snaps in 2020 and 46 others on special teams. And being inactive for five of the Steelers first seven games in 2020, Gilbert landed on the teams Reserve/Injured list with a back injury. After missing five games due to that injury, Gilbert returned to play in two more games before suffering an ankle injury that landed him back on the team’s Reserve/Injured list. He registered all of five tackles in 2020, with most of those coming on special teams.
Outlook: Gilbert’s injury history to date is a big concern and his back specifically as that particular injury cost him most of his 2019 rookie season. Gilbert is a particularly good special teams player and he also showed some positive in the limited defensive snaps he played in 2020. Gilbert does have a shot at making the Steelers 53-man roster this summer but to do that, he absolutely must remain healthy. The Steelers could really use him as backup inside linebacker in addition to him being a core special teams player. At worst, and assuming he stays healthy all summer, Gilbert could ultimately land on the Steelers practice squad should fail to survive the team’s final round of roster cuts.
CB Joe Haden — Overall, Haden had a good 2020 season, and it was on par with his previous three. He did, however, miss one game in 2020 with a concussion during the regular season in addition to two more, one of which was the team’s lone playoff game, because of him being on the COVID-19 list. In the 14 regular season games that Haden did play in last season, he registered 52 total tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes defensed. One of those two interceptions he returned for a touchdown. In coverage in 2020, Haden was targeted 68 times and he allowed 35 receptions and three touchdowns.
Outlook: Haden is poised once again to be one of the Steelers starting outside cornerbacks in 2021. The hope is that the Steelers can squeeze one more good season out of the 32-year-old. Haden knows the Steelers defense inside and out and he is a very opportunistic player in coverage. He is still good enough against the run and thus not a huge liability in that phase of the game. His still a fairly reliable tackler to boot but does miss some on occasion. He also has dripped a few interceptions throughout his career in Pittsburgh so hopefully he can rectify that in 2021. Haden has only had two NFL seasons to date in which he played in every game, so it is highly likely that he’ll miss a game or two in 2021 due to injury. The Steelers don’t have much in the way of experienced cornerbacks on their 2021 roster so hopefully Haden can stay on the field quite a bit this season.
T/G Joe Haeg — The Steelers signed Haeg to a two-year free agent contract back in March after he spent the 2020 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Haeg, who played college football at North Dakota State, was originally selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round (155th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. To date, he has played in 67 regular season games with 38 starts. Haeg was used mostly as a jumbo tight end last season with the Buccaneers. He played about 50 snaps at left guard in one game as well. He is a versatile lineman and has seemingly played both tackle and guard spots since being drafted.
Outlook: On tape, Haeg seems to be better tackle than he is a guard. His best position, however, and based on his 2020 play with the Buccaneers, seems to be as an eligible tight end and that’s likely what the Steelers main plan is for him. In all likelihood, Haeg will be a weekly active player for the Steelers in 2021 as he can play both tackle and guard. It will be interesting to see what position he lines up at the most during training camp and the preseason. On the surface, Haeg appears to be set to be the Steelers main backup at both tackle spots once training camp gets underway. Hopefully the Steelers won’t need him to play very many snaps in 2021 outside of several as an extra blocking tight end.
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90 In 30: Steelers 2021 Training Camp Preview Series: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Mark Gilbert