Now that we’ve said goodbye to all of the prominent members of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster from a year ago, it’s time to introduce ourselves to the new blood. Many of them, of course, are draft picks, but the team also ended up picking up numerous players via free agency, the majority of whom we’ll likely be seeing in-season at some point.
Roster turnover is an inevitability in the NFL, but the 2021 season marked greater change than normal. Some of those adjustments will be accounted for internally, but it will also require the supplementing of a number of new components, which we’ll be reintroducing ourselves to over the course of this series.
One thing the Steelers cannot be accused of is failing to turn over their offensive line room. They may not have filled their coffers with premium pedigree, but they’ve certainly swapped out a lot of personnel from last offseason. Only B.J. Finney among last night’s starting five had ever played for the team before, and he wasn’t on the roster last year. And he only started because Trai Turner, their new right guard, didn’t play.
Bur Finney played left guard, with Kevin Dotson sitting out. It was Rashaad Coward who played right guard, a familiar spot for him, as he lined up there throughout the spring while the Steelers were still learning about David DeCastro’s future before he was released and Turner was brought in.
A veteran with a defensive background, Coward is capable of playing both guard and tackle, but has been working at guard for the Steelers in training camp. He has pretty much worked first-team all offseason due to the injuries to DeCastro and then Dotson, so seems to be the next man up at the position.
That possibly indicates that either one of Finney or J.C. Hassenauer is not going to make the team, the only other players on the roster, outside of John Leglue, who can play center behind presumptive rookie starter Kendrick Green. Anthony Coyle was also able to play some center, but was just waived injured.
As for Coward, he has started 15 games over the past two seasons, originally a college free agent out of Old Dominion who had spent his career up to this season with the Chicago Bears. They opted not to give him a restricted free agent tender, and he signed with the Steelers at the end of March.
Last season, they had DeCastro and Matt Feiler as their starting guards, and Maurkice Pouncey as the center. Stefen Wisniewski was their top interior reserve to open the season, with Dotson next, and then Hassenauer.
Most of those players are now gone, with another now (presumably) in the starting lineup and the other possibly looking like he’s outside the roster bubble right now, but that remains to be seen. It does seem that Coward, though, is inside of it, and if he’s inside, Hassenauer’s probably not.