clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Steelers rookies out to prove they are more than one trick ponies

New, comments

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 draft class has a couple players who are testing their limits regarding position.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the final week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and a lot has been made of the 2019 NFL Draft class. Devin Bush’s speed and agility has been on display, Diontae Smith’s precise route-running and Justin Layne’s family’s transition from Browns fans to Steelers fans have all be story lines coming out of the UPMC Rooney Practice Facility.

But one thing I can’t get over is how there are a pair of rookies who are not just willing to do whatever it takes to make the 53-man roster, but are willing to play whatever position necessary to help their chances of hanging around.

6th round draft pick Sutton Smith is a pass rusher by trade, but the Steelers see so much more than that in the former Northern Illinois product. It was widely reported how Smith has not just been working with the pass rushers this spring, but also taking reps at fullback.

Smith spoke to Steelers.com about how he is an unselfish player, and willing to do whatever the coaching staff asks him to do.

When Smith changed his number to accommodate a potential switch to full back, and still be able to play linebacker, it made news. Papers ran with the fact Smith is a grinder and a true team player. But what didn’t get as much ink is another rookie who is also willing to do whatever it takes to see the field.

Seventh round pick Derwin Gray is also showing the coaching staff he is more than capable of playing multiple positions, four in all across the offensive line to be exact.

Throughout OTAs Gray has been put at right tackle, right guard, left guard and left tackle. Maybe this is the Steelers just throwing something against the wall to see what will stick, but if Gray can truly be this versatile he will certainly have a spot on the team in 2019. To Gray, it is just football.

“I pretty much have played at all four (non-center offensive line) positions since I have been here,” Gray told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Left tackle, right tackle, right guard and left guard. So this week was my first week at left guard.

“It’s all football (regardless of position). It’s all zone blocking, outside zone, pass protection, that’s all it is.”

The vast majority of Gray’s experience at the University of Maryland was spent at left tackle, but if he can be competent across the line it would be a huge bonus in regards to depth. When you look at the team’s starting lineup, and the depth behind them, another interior lineman who could also flex out to tackle would be tremendous.

Taking a look at the depth along the line, B.J. Finney is the man who will backup Maurkice Pouncey at center, and can also play both the left and right guard positions. The Steelers have either Matt Feiler, Jerald Hawkins or Chukwuma Okorafor to be their swing tackle behind Alejandro Villanueva and whoever wins the right tackle spot. If Gray can prove his worth at multiple positions, he could be added depth at both the tackle and guard position, likely making someone like Hawkins expendable if he doesn’t out-perform his competition.

Don’t think Gray doesn’t realize how valuable he could be as a versatile player, and not just a one-trick pony at the tackle position.

“I look at it as me being a guy who can play different roles and play different spots when needed,” Gray said. “I’ve showed the versatility that I can play anywhere on the o-line.”

Needless to say, with Gray in the mix the Steelers offensive line battle throughout training camp will be something to definitely keep an eye on.