Roster turnover is an inevitability in this league, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster has changed considerably since the end of last season, with many players who have been important to this franchise now gone, either retired, in limbo, or in another uniform. As we wind down the time until training camp opens, it feels appropriate to acknowledge the old faces that we’ll no longer be seeing on the sidelines this year.
That includes Pro Bowlers and former high draft picks, as well as undrafted free agents of varying accomplishment. Four losses along the offensive line, multiple departures at linebacker and in the secondary, and other changes mixed in, will make for a rather different roster.
All the same, there are the steady presences that remain: the Ben Roethlisbergers, the T.J. Watts, the Cameron Heywards. Who will be the next long-term faces? Minkah Fitzpatrick will certainly be one. What about Cameron Sutton? Zach Banner? Kevin Dotson? Devin Bush? When will their names be included here?
OL Derwin Gray
There was a time when it seemed that teams had a penchant for claiming Steelers’ defensive ends off of their practice squad or waivers. In recent years, the focus has shifted to offensive linemen. You could go back to Wesley Johnson, but more recently, you’ve had Fred Johnson, Patrick Morris, and Derwin Gray, for example.
Gray, a 2019 seventh-round pick out of Maryland, spent his rookie season on the practice squad. He began the 2020 season there as well, but Pittsburgh called him up after both Zach Banner and Stefen Wisniewski were injured in the opener. The Steelers additionally signed former draft pick Jerald Hawkins off of the Texans’ practice squad.
Gray ultimately played in five games, accumulating 25 offensive snaps, generally at the end of blowouts. He also logged 11 snaps on special teams. In December, the Steelers waived him in order to sign Tegray Scales from the practice squad, who had already used up his two allotted elevations, as injuries at the inside linebacker position mounted.
Unfortunately, the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed Gray off of waivers before Pittsburgh could have the opportunity to re-sign him to the practice squad. He did not see a snap during the season for the Jaguars, but Jacksonville re-signed him after the season ended. He remains on their 90-man roster heading into training camp.
His loss marked a string of departures for various reasons. The only linemen returning from last year’s opening-day roster are Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, and J.C. Hassenauer, three of whom are projected to be starters. Pittsburgh signed Trai Turner to take over David DeCastro’s spot, while rookie Kendrick Green is expected to start at center.
I was interested in seeing how Gray would develop as a depth piece, personally. This offseason, they’ve used veteran free agency to fill out the depth chart, signing Joe Haeg, B.J. Finney, Rashaad Coward, and now Chaz Green.