The Pittsburgh Steelers have an offensive line battle about to ensue when the team reports to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 25th, and one of the participants will be battling without being fully healthy.
Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, Zach Banner and even rookie Derwin Gray will be looking to impress the coaching staff in hopes of winning the spot vacated by Marcus Gilbert when he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals this offseason.
To be honest, it is one of the few genuine training camp battles for the Steelers this season, but for Jerald Hawkins, he will have to be heading into this competition not 100%. It was during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in 2018 when Hawkins was lost for the season with a torn quadriceps injury. One year later, and he still doesn’t label himself as back to full health.
“I like where I am at with (the knee), the mental aspect and what I can do with it and what I need to work on.
“Honestly, it did better than what I expected. I knew I was back strong, and I knew it was stable. But now being able to anchor down and be able to take bull rush, just being able to run on screens, I feel good with it all. Still not where I want to be, but I will say I am like 75% right now, so doing pretty good.” Hawkins told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The team now has over one month off until the start of training camp, and Hawkins estimates he will be roughly “80 or 90%” when the team reports. But don’t think his rehabilitation will keep him out of the running for the tackle spot. Then again, Hawkins is also willing to show he is capable of playing guard too.
“Wherever they want me at, I’m gonna be there,” Hawkins said. “If they want me, I’m going in there. I’m not going to tell them ‘no.’ ”
It has been a long and arduous process for Hawkins as he gets closer to return with a full bill of health, but during this time off he is focused on one thing and one thing only — getting back and being able to trust his knee.
“Right now I am focusing on just making sure I am back to the best of my ability,” Hawkins said.
Of all the camp battles the Steelers are facing heading into the 2019 camp, this might be the most highly contested battle, and it will be critical the Steelers find someone capable of rounding out one of the best offensive lines in the entire NFL.