Steelers Poach Freakishly Athletic Vikings Offensive Lineman

Aviante Collins

Courtesy of Vikings Vikings offensive lineman Aviante Collins was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a move on Tuesday that leaves the Minnesota Vikings with fewer options on how to remedy the mess at the guard positions.

The Steelers signed fourth-year offensive tackle Aviante Collins to a reserve/future contract, guaranteeing their rights to bring Collins in to training camp this offseason.

Collins was deemed a “perfect fit” by Inside the Vikings’ Will Ragatz for the offensive scheme the Vikings have installed over the past two seasons. A rare combination of strength and speed at the position, Collins struggled with injuries and inconsistent play.

He competed for the starting left guard spot this past offseason with Dakota Dozier — a battle that was considered moot — as Dozier reunited with his former offensive line coach with the New York Jets, Rick Dennison.

Collins didn’t play a snap in 2020, leaving his potential in Minnesota in question as he departs for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Dozier was ranked 122nd at his position of a possible 133 guards by Pro Football Focus and is expected to reach free agency this offseason.

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 Collins Touted as a ‘Freak Athlete’ Out of College

Collins took the NFL Scouting Combine by storm as a product out of Texas Christian University (TCU). He ran a 4.81 40-yard dash (99th percentile among OTs) and cranked out 34 bench press reps (97th percentile). His 40-time was the third-fastest ever recorded by an offensive lineman in the history of the combine.

His father, Bill, was a Hall of Fame track star at TCU — a path his brother, Lavon, followed as a two-time All-American sprinter and hurdler for the Horned Frogs.

“I’ve been running my whole life,” Collins told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after his combine performance. “I knew I was going to run that time [and] it could have been a lot faster. I always joke around and say if I ran a slow time my family will kick me out of the family.”

Pro Player Insiders (PPI) previewed Collins ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft and found that due to his arm length (33.4 inches, 35th percentile) and hand size (9.4 inches, 14th percentile), he would likely not be an ideal tackle in the NFL but had upside at guard.

“[Collins] could be a freak athlete to play inside if he can bulk up and be developed by a coach,” PPI wrote, adding he had the potential to be a third- or fourth-round pick.

The Vikings entertained developing Collins and took a waiver on his in rookie free agency, however, his athletic prowess never materialized into playing time.

 Plagued by Injury

Collins saw his first action as an NFL lineman during Minnesota’s regular-season finale in 2017, where he played 28 snaps as a sixth lineman against the Chicago Bears.

He put together an impressive 81.7 PFF position grade that game and won over the Vikings coaching staff.

Collins earned himself 10 snaps in the Minneapolis Miracle game against the New Orleans Saints and was riding high hopes to become a regular on the offensive line during training camp the following season.

Unfortunately, Collins suffered a torn bicep injury in September 2018 that cost him the season. Collins then suffered a leg injury in 2019 that affected him to start the season as Dozier became regular in his stead.

Collins returned to the starting fold in Week 17 that season and struggled, producing a 54.5 PFF grade. Failing to prove himself in 2020, Collins’ departure from the team seemed evident as the Steelers hope to turn around the 27-year-old’s career.


Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.

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