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 in this retrospective?
T Jerald Hawkins
5 seasons (4 with Steelers)
A former 2016 fourth-round pick by the Steelers, Jerald Hawkins first came to the team by way of LSU as an undergraduate with high upside. Suffice it to say that he never fully lived up to his potential, but a series of injuries likely played a role in that as well, as he spent two of his first three seasons on the Reserve/Injured List.
Pittsburgh originally managed to trade him in 2019 for a swap of late-round picks when they had an abundance of talent, with Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler as their starting tackles, and Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner as their reserves.
A year later, Feiler was moved to guard, with Banner starting at right tackle. He suffered a torn ACL in the opener, putting Okorafor in the starting lineup, the injury prompting the Steelers to address their depth by signing Hawkins, who at the time was on the Houston Texans’ practice squad.
He would spend the rest of the season, shy of a brief stint on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, on the Steelers’ 53-man roster, operating as a tackle-eligible, and ultimately logging a total of 76 offensive snaps, which represented a career high for him.
As of this writing, he remains a free agent, and there doesn’t appear to be any imminent movement, either toward Pittsburgh or elsewhere. In fact, the Steelers just switched out tackles, letting go of Jarron Jones and replacing him with a veteran in Chaz Green.
Joe Haeg was added as their priciest free agent before signing Trai Turner and Melvin Ingram over the course of the past month. Another veteran with experience, Haeg is likely to fulfil the tackle-eligible role for the team this year.