The Pittsburgh Steelers have been making a lot of moves this offseason, and one of those moves was when they traded oft-injured right tackle Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals for a 6th round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Steelers fans had known the ice was thin with Gilbert. After all, he had watched more games than played in the past few seasons. But when he was officially traded most were left with a “what now?” thought at right tackle.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin, speaking for the first time since his end of the season press conference, said the right tackle position will be an open competition between a trio of tackles:
This per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic:
Tomlin said RT is an open competition between Feiler, Chuks and Hawkins— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) March 25, 2019
Of these three, the Steelers hope they can find the answer to their vacancy at the tackle position, but each player comes with their own respective concerns.
Okorafor is entering his second year in the league, and while he showed tremendous promise as a rookie in heavy packages as an extra tight end, there is still plenty of work to be done. Okorafor did represent himself nicely in his first, and only, start against the Broncos last season, but with such a small sample size he will really have to turn heads in training camp to win the job.
Feiler is likely the leader in the clubhouse for the position. Feiler started for the injured Gilbert last season, and did a tremendous job in relief duty. The man they call ‘the anchor’ is a run blocker who still has some work to do in regards of pass blocking, but represented himself in a way the Steelers would be comfortable going into the season with Feiler as the starter at right tackle.
The wild card in this whole equation is Hawkins. His rookie season was ended early with a shoulder injury, his sophomore season was disappointing and last year he tore his quadriceps muscle in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) putting him on Injured Reserve (IR) the rest of the season. Will Hawkins impress in 2019? Or find himself on the outside looking in? No one really knows.
On top of the three tackles vying for the starting position, there is also the change over at Offensive Line coach. Mike Munchak to a lateral position with the Broncos, leaving Shaun Sarrett as the new man in charge of the offensive line. Although Sarrett has been with the Steelers since before Munchak was hired, you have to wonder if he can keep the magic going Munchak had with taking lesser known players and turning them into greater talents.
Either way, this will be one of the big camp battles to keep an eye on as the 2019 regular season approaches.