On Tuesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers signed offensive tackle Aviante Collins (6-foot-4, 292 pounds) to a Reserve/Future contract, adding to the depth at a position where the team is decidedly thin.
Aviante Collins (pronounced AH-vee-on) came into the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Christian University (TCU). He appeared in three games during his rookie season, including two postseason games, but spent most of 2018 on the Reserve/Injured list (torn biceps).
Collins played in two more games in 2019, making his first NFL start in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears. He spent most of the 2020 season on Minnesota’s practice squad.
Collins Hails from a Track & Field Family
Aviante Collins possesses a rare combination of size, strength and speed, though he has yet to translate his athleticism into a regular role in the NFL.
In fact, at the NFL Combine in 2017 he ran a 4.81-second 40 (99th percentile among OTs) with 34 bench press reps (97th percentile). It was the third-fastest 40-yard dash time ever recorded by an offensive lineman in Combine history.
“I’ve been running my whole life,” Collins told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at the Combine. “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.”
That’s because he comes from a distinguished track & field household. His father, Bill, was inducted into the TCU Lettermen’s Hall of Fame as a three-time Southwest Conference championship sprinter. His brother, Lavon, was a two-time All-American sprinter/hurdler for the Horned Frogs.
For his part, Collins was a four-year letterman in track in high school and excelled at the shot put, finishing inside the top four in the state as a sophomore, junior and senior. But as a consensus 3-star recruit for football he decided to focus on playing offensive line, appearing in 49 games during his college career at TCU, including 36 starts.
Offensive Tackle a Crying Need for Steelers
With the addition of Collins, the Steelers have now signed a total of five offensive tackles to Reserve/Future contracts, with the others being Jarron Jones, John Leglue, Anthony Coyle and Brandon Walton.
Of the five, Jones had the most eventful 2020 season, as he was arrested in October and charged with aggravated assault, strangulation and simple assault. His father, Matthew, also spent 47 days in the hospital battling COVID-19, narrowly escaping with his life. Jones spent most of the 2020 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, but was placed on practice squad injured reserve to make room for Leglue, 24, who entered the league with the Denver Broncos and has spent time on the practice squads of the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
Anthony Coyle was signed by the Steelers in April 2020 after playing for the New York Guardians of the XFL. He spent most of this past season on the practice squad, but was elevated to the active roster for two games.
Brandon Walton was signed to Pittsburgh’s practice squad in September of last year. He played both left and right tackle in college at Florida Atlantic University, the same school that produced Steelers cornerback James Pierre.
It’s no surprise that the Steelers are signing so many offensive tackles to Reserve/Future contracts. Only one of this year’s tackles is under contract for next season, that being Chuks Okorafor, who will be entering his fourth season and the last year of the rookie deal he inked in 2018.
Meanwhile, starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is a pending unrestricted free agent, as is right tackle Zach Banner, who is rehabbing from the torn ACL he suffered in the season opener against the New York Giants. Reserve tackle Jerald Hawkins is also a pending UFA.
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