The Pittsburgh Steelers enter into Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season looking for answers to their depth issues along an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries at this early stage of the season. There are more questions than answers at this point, but the Steelers have no choice but to find the necessary answers to get where they ultimately want to go. That would be on stage lifting another Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl.
Not every question currently facing the Steelers coaching staff will have a simple black or white answer. Actually, when it comes to the Steelers offensive line depth issues, the answer may very well be Derwin Gray.
Until Friday, Derwin Gray resided on the Steelers practice squad. He was one of the four players who the Steelers designated as protected in Week 2 for a reason. And now we know why.
Last season, Derwin Gray was a seventh-round selection from Maryland that impressed the Steelers coaches enough during training camp and the preseason that he was signed to the practice squad for a "redshirt" season. He says he utilized that time to fully heal from a knee injury suffered his junior year, and to show position versatility by learning to play guard. This is where his story gets really interesting.
Gray took full advantage of his time at the feet of a master tactician, the since retired Ramon Foster. Foster served as a mentor of sorts for the young man, and who better to receive instruction from than a former UDFA who managed to overcome his own limited athleticism and become a vital member of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Both men were speaking the same language so to speak, one classic overachiever to hopefully another.
After not having any preseason games to show all that he had learned from the Big Ragu in live competition, he failed to make the final roster at a position filled with proven depth and potential. Oh how times have changed.
With David Decastro still sidelined by a nagging knee injury suffered during camp, the Steelers turned to veteran Stephen Wisniewski to hold the fort at right guard in Week 1. Late in the Steelers Monday night victory over the New York Giants, Wisniewski went down with a pectoral injury. The very next play, right tackle Zach Banner was lost for the season with a ACL injury. The Steelers solid offensive line depth disappeared in two plays.
Now the Steelers are preparing to face the Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. The status of Decastro and Wisniewski was quite grim all week, and on Friday they were both declared out on the Steelers injury report.
How bad is it? The Steelers are looking at the very real possibility that they will be forced to start rookie Kevin Dotson at right guard, along side new right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor. It’s definitely not ideal, but the Steelers will have to make the best of a bad situation.
Even if Dotson starts and performs admirably, the Steelers presently have no player listed at guard to back up the starters on the depth chart. This is why I felt the Steelers would be wise to promote Gray to the active roster, which they did on Friday when they placed Wisniewski on the Reserve/Injured List. Gray has the aforementioned position versatility, because he also can play right tackle.
The Steelers do have J.C. Hassenauer already on the roster, but he is basically a backup center who could possibly fill in at guard in a pinch. The other linemen on the practice squad are both tackles only.
Sometimes one man's misfortune turns out to be another man's good fortune. In this case, it may have taken multiple player's misfortune, but Derwin Gray may just seize the opportunity and run with it.