Steelers Sign Offensive Tackle: Report

Jerald-Hawkins-Steelers

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Jerald Hawkins #65 during a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts in 2017.

Today a report emerged that Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Zach Banner suffered a torn ACL during Monday night’s game against the New York Giants. That would seem to dovetail with another new report, courtesy of Aaron Wilson, who covers the Houston Texans for the Houston Chronicle. Wilson tweeted out a message indicating that the Steelers have signed offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins off the Texans’ practice squad.


Jerald Hawkins: Former Steelers Fourth-Round Pick

Jerald Hawkins—6-foot-6, 305 pounds—was a fourth-round selection of the Steelers in the 2016 NFL Draft, a product of LSU. Last summer the Steelers traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with a 2021 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick. Hawkins played in only one game for the Bucs, and the Texans signed him last month to shore up Houston’s depth on the offensive line.

Hawkins made one start and appeared in five games for the Steelers in 2017; he finished the 2016 and 2018 seasons on injured reserve.

Now Pittsburgh has two players on the team from its 2016 draft class, when just a few weeks ago it had none. In early September the Steelers signed former second-round draft pick Sean Davis after he was released by the Washington Football Team.


Steelers’ Offensive Line Depth Tested

At his press conference Tuesday afternoon, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the injuries suffered by his team on Monday night, including the emotional reaction—on the part of Zach Banner and his teammates—after the starting right tackle went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.

“It can be a cold game, but it’s a lot like life,” said Tomlin via Steelers.com. “We’re not defined by what happens to us, we’re defined by how we respond to it. So whenever unfortunate events like that occur, we talk openly about that. It’s not that he was injured—after all he has been through and the fight he has been through to get where he is. It’s about what he does moving forward and responding to it. He’s a competitor, he’s a professional, and I expect him to smile in the face of adversity.”

Banner earned the starting right tackle job in training camp over former third-round pick Chuks Okorafor, and it’s Okorafor who is now expected to start at the position on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

“We’ve talked quite a bit about Chuks along with Zach Banner and the battle they had for right tackle, and as I’ve said repeatedly I thought both guys were starter-capable, and I still feel that way,” Tomlin concluded. “So I’m extremely comfortable with Chuks and his ability to play, and his overall readiness.”

Meanwhile, the right guard position is also an issue, thanks to the pectoral injury suffered by Stefen Wisniewski on Monday night.

Asked at his press conference if starting right guard David DeCastro might be ready to return, Tomlin said: “I don’t know. I’m hopeful that he’s able to work [Wednesday]. We’ll see.” If DeCastro is unable to play this Sunday—and if Wisniewski’s pectoral injury takes him out of the lineup for a week or more—the “next man up” would be rookie fourth-round pick Kevin Dotson.

Tomlin didn’t sound comfortable with the idea of inserting Dotson into the starting lineup on Sunday.

“Dotson is a young guy who hasn’t had a lot of work throughout this process because of [his] injury and a lack of availability, and so there’s some angst there,” said Tomlin. “If he’s called upon this week, it’s going to take a tremendous effort by him and by us, and by us I mean us putting him in the very best position to perform. So there’s some dual responsibility there.”

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