The Steelers made a trade on Saturday as they trimmed their roster to 53 players. But it wasn't for a veteran tight end, as many had speculated.
Instead, fourth-year offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins was shipped to the Buccaneers a little over an hour before the 4 p.m. roster deadline. In return, the Steelers will send their seventh-round pick in 2021 to Tampa Bay and will receive the Buccaneers' sixth-round selection in that same draft.
Hawkins, a fourth-round pick out of LSU in 2016, never quite made a mark with the Steelers, suffering a shoulder injury as a rookie that wound up getting him placed on injured reserve, then suffering a quad injury during OTAs in 2018 that ended his season early.
He did see a handful of snaps as an extra blocker in 2017, but had fallen behind Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner on the depth chart behind starting tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler this year.
The team also released 36 other players to get down to the league roster limit of 53 players. Among those released were veteran receiver Eli Rogers and quarterback Devlin Hodges, an undrafted rookie who had impressed in the preseason.
Rogers caught 48 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns in 2016, but missed a large chunk of time in 2018 while continuing to recover from a torn ACL suffered in the playoffs in 2017 against the Jaguars. After recovering from the injury, he appeared in three games last season, catching 12 passes for 78 yards.
The team also released several former draft picks, including two from this year's class, sixth-round pick Sutton Smith, a linebacker who was the first of three picks in that round, and guard Derwin Gray, a seventh-round selection.
Also released was 2018 fifth-round pick Marcus Allen, a safety from Penn State.
Punter Ian Berryman and placekicker Matthew Wright both were released, meaning the Steelers will once again go with Jordan Berry and Chris Boswell at those positions.
The Steelers and the rest of the league must now wait until all of the released players clear waivers before they can set their 10-man practice squad.
Two of the stars of the preseason, linebackers Tuzar Skipper and Ulysees Gilbert, both made the 53-man roster. Skipper led the NFL with five preseason sacks, while Gilbert showed excellent speed in coverage and blocked a field goal attempt in the team's preseason finale against the Panthers.
The Steelers are still in the market for a veteran tight end and several players were released that could interest the team, including Luke Willson (Raiders), Logan Paulsen (Falcons), A.J. Derby (Saints), Will Tye (Eagles) and Seth DeValve (Browns).
With those moves, the Steelers' roster now looks like this:
Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
Running backs (4): James Conner, Roosevelt Nix (FB), Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell
Wide receivers: (5): JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson
Tight end (3): Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry
Offensive line (9): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Matt Feiler, B.J. Finney, Chuks Okorafor, Zach Banner, Fred Johnson
Defensive line (6): Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Daniel McCullers, Isaiah Buggs
Linebackers (10): Bud Dupree, Vince Williams, Mark Barron, T.J. Watt, Tyler Matakevich, Devin Bush, Anthony Chickillo, Ola Adeniyi, Ulysees Gilbert, Tuzar Skipper
Cornerbacks (6): Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Artie Burns, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne
Safeties (4): Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Kameron Kelly, Jordan Dangerfield
Specialists (3): Chris Boswell (PK), Jordan Berry (P), Kameron Canaday (LS)
The roster lined up pretty much with what I had in my final projection. The only difference was Gilbert over Johnny Holton.
That had to be a tough call for the coaching staff and Kevin Colbert. But it also wouldn't surprise me to see the Steelers make a move at receiver, though the Steelers do save $1.25 million against the salary cap by releasing Rogers.
That money could now be used to acquire or sign a tight end. I still think that move happens and Gentry winds up heading to the practice squad, as well.
Overall, this is a pretty darn good, and deep roster.
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