It was only six weeks ago with a Pittsburgh Steelers had more offensive lineman on their roster than what they could keep. With several young players being called upon to contribute, the Steelers had to make a tough decision as to who to hold on to and who to let go. Rather than run the danger of losing one of their young talents by trying to get them onto the practice squad, the Steelers ended up cutting veteran Stefen Wisniewski after he returned from the Reserve/Injured List.
At the time, it made sense that Wisniewski was the odd man out. Kevin Dotson had filled in admirably and guard during Wisniewski‘s absence and the Steelers appeared to be happy with J.C. Hassenauer backing up Maurkice Pouncey. Because of this, Wisniewski is now on the practice squad of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now that Matt filer has been placed on the Reserve/Injured list and will miss the remainder of the regular season at minimum, the Steelers find themselves somewhat thin at the guard position. So who do the Steelers have available to play guard moving forward?
Going into Week 15, the obvious choice to fill-in at left guard would be Kevin Dotson. Unfortunately, he has not practiced at all through Friday and it is looking more as if he will not be able to take the field Monday night. While Dotson can be the answer in future weeks, even if he were to play in Week 15 there would still be a question as to who will act as the backup.
As a rookie, Dotson has already logged 223 offensive snaps in two starts. There is little doubt if he is available the Dotson would be the man getting the snaps at guard for the remainder of the season.
After both Matt Feiler and Kevin Dotson went down against the Buffalo Bills, center J.C. Hassenauer finished the game at the guard position. Of the Steelers other options at guard beyond Dotson, Hassenauer definitely has the most experience in 2020 as he has started two games at center and played 187 offensive snaps along with 43 special team snaps. Granted all but 18 of Hassenauer’s snaps on offense came as center, at least he is an option to fill in if needed.
The biggest issue with using Hassenauer at guard is if there becomes a problem with the center position. Should a problem arise with Maurkice Pouncey, an extra move would need to be made as Hassenauer is the only other center on the Steelers roster.
One option the Steelers have currently on the 53-man roster is Derwin Gray. Although listed on the Steelers website as an offensive tackle, Gray is apparently ready to fill-in at various spots along the offensive line. Spending part of the 2020 season on the Steelers practice squad, Gray has only been active for four games in 2020. The Steelers 2019 seventh-round draft pick, Gray has logged nine offensive snaps and eight special team snaps.
Whether or not the Steelers would prefer to go with Gray over Hassenauer at the guard position remains to be seen. On Sunday night the obvious choice was Hassenauer as Gray was the offensive lineman who was inactive for the game since the Steelers had filled the reserve spots with Jerald Hawkins and tackle, Dotson at guard, and Hassenauer at center. But knowing about a deficiency at guard going into Week 15, it’s difficult to say which player is higher on the Steelers depth chart at guard.
Signed off of the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad on Tuesday, Isidora is not eligible to join the Steelers until he clears the NFL is COVID-19 protocol. Isidora could be activated in time for the Steelers Monday night matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he will not have participated in any in-person practices before the game.
Although Isidora has the least amount of experience in 2020, he has more experience overall than the Steelers other options combined. Only playing two offensive snaps in one game for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020, Isidora started all three games of 2019 for the Miami Dolphins and played 127 offensive snaps before being placed on the Reserve/Injured list due to a foot injury which required surgery. In his first two seasons in the NFL in 2017 and 2018 with the Minnesota Vikings after being selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL draft, Isidora logged 361 snaps in two seasons and started in three games.
While Isidora could hopefully add some depth to the Steelers offensive guard position, getting him up to speed to step in on Monday seems a bit much for the four-year veteran.
Practice Squad- None
It should be noted that even though the Pittsburgh Steelers have three players on the practice squad who are offensive linemen, all three have their primary position as offensive tackle. Two of the players, Anthony Coyle and Brandon Walton, are listed as tackles while Jarron Jones is listed merely as an offensive lineman. Jones played tackle this past offseason in the XFL for the New York Guardians. In college, Jones was a defensive lineman at Notre Dame that made the switch to the offensive side of the ball as a professional.
With Matt Feiler down for three weeks and Kevin Dotson not looking promising to play, what is the Steelers best option for Monday night? Will the Steelers keep Hassenauer at guard where he finished up the game against Buffalo, or will Derwin Gray slide in his place? Will Danny Isidora become a factor over the coming weeks? Right now all we have is speculation, but we will see what the Steelers plan is on Monday night.