Damian Prince was one of four players signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers after their three-day rookie minicamp. The 6’3, 320 pound offensive lineman out of Maryland went undrafted and unsigned as an undrafted rookie free agent until the tryout. Prince attended the Indianapolis Colts minicamp the weekend before, but came away seeking a home.
Steelers seventh-round pick, Derwin Gray was the left bookend at tackle to Prince at Maryland. It is yet unclear if Prince will be kept at tackle or moved inside to guard during the offseason. Showing versatility on the right side will be the key to his chances to make the roster or the practice squad.
Prince was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and the No. 2 offensive lineman prospect. Like many blue-chip prospects, dreams of being drafted by an NFL team were dashed even after starting 33 games the past three seasons and 39 of a possible 43.
In 2018, Prince considered going pro but returned for his last season. Matt Miller had Prince listed as his No. 2 guard on his big board in 2017. Pro Football Focus listed him as their (tied) No. 4 offensive tackle before the 2018 season. So 20/20 hindsight, he should have made that decision instead of coming back his senior season.
So what happened to Prince in 2018 that sent him tumbling down draft boards? In 2018, he saw his fourth head coach not to mention his fourth position coach during his tenure in Maryland.
“Throughout those four to five years, each year taught me something about myself, not just as a football player but as a man,” Prince said. “There’s days when I walked into the building and they say, ‘You have a new offensive line coach.’ … It teaches you at the same time to be professional, and to not mix business with outside relationships. I feel like that’s important, going on to this next level -- whether that be the NFL or whether that be the business world.”
The passing of teammate and his former roommate offensive lineman Jordan McNair no doubt impacted Prince. McNair collapsed on May 29, 2018, and died two weeks later from heatstroke.
The accumulation of the above and the three games missed because of injuries led to a senior season that was not up to snuff for NFL personnel. Prince showed in previous years he has talent. Can he showcase that talent and make a mark with the Steelers is the big question mark. Doubtful any BTSC or Steelers fan expected Zach Banner to make the team, or even heard of him before mid-August.
Who is Prince competing against? Well, that depends do if the Steelers see Prince as a guard or a tackle, and who wins the starting right tackle gig. My take is he will be a guard while Matt Feiler was serviceable but replaceable at right tackle, but Feiler has the versatility to play on the interior. If Chuks Okorafor snares the right tackle job, the line depth becomes muddied fast and Princes’ spot would be difficult to get on a 53-man roster with the Steelers keeping their traditional nine offensive linemen. Zach Banner is nothing special except for being a mammoth of a man standing 6’8” and 360 pounds. B.J Finney with his guaranteed $3.095 million contract is the first interior lineman off the bench at any of the three positions. Another roadblock in the way of Prince is the fourth round, and former BTSC favorite and oft-injured Jerald Hawkins. Seen by many draftniks as an interior prospect, can he actually stay healthy and compete for a spot on the line?
Prince’s only shot to make the roster is as a backup interior lineman. He has zero future as an NFL tackle. Delete his senior season and he has the pedigree. The Steelers keep at least two undrafted players and I would put Prince right there. I have never had faith in Hawkins at OT or OG to I expect him to finally flame out. Prince has the versatility that the Steelers crave. He will become a weekly inactive but still part of the 53.