When it was reported this morning that Trai Essex was visiting the South Side, you had to know it wasn\’t just to pick up his AFC Championship watch. I believe that could have been easily taken care of through UPS or FedEx. By the time dinner rolled around, the Steelers announced that they had re-signed Essex to a one-year deal.
The Steelers are likely now recognizing their depth issues on the offensive line after both Chris Scott and rookie Keith Williams have failed to impress during the Steelers first two preseason games. Throw on top of that the fact that Ramon Foster also had a rough go of it against the Eagles and you can see why they might have picked up the phone to call Essex.
To add to the offensive line woes, Jonathan Scott and rookie Marcus Gilbert both went down last week to knee injuries against the Eagles. Both reportedly will be fine long term, but I could certainly see one or both sitting out against the Falcons this coming Saturday. Should both indeed sit, there is no way the Steelers can think that Tony Hills can handle the left tackle spot. It is a surprise in itself that he has taken to right guard, but his position flexibility really ends right there.
Essex is a jack of all trades, albeit a master of none, but he can play all four spots on the offensive line should the need arise. He also would have been the emergency center in the Super Bowl had Doug Legursky went down to injury.
The Steelers resume practice on Tuesday after having Monday off and that will give Essex a few days to get ready to play against the Falcons. I suspect he could even start at left tackle if indeed Scott and Gilbert are sidelined. At worst he will likely get some snaps there throughout the night even if he does not start. After his stint on the left side, he very well could flip over to the right guard spot to see if he can throw his hat in the ring for the starting spot.
Essex was thrust into action against the Ravens last year after J. Scott left with an injury and he actually fared pretty well against Terrell Suggs during those snaps as I pointed out in that offensive line breakdown from that game.
Last year the Steelers kept just 9 offensive linemen on the 53 man roster and with Essex now signed, it means that both Williams and C.Scott could be waived in the final cut-downs. I should note that Foster is also not a lock at this point either and hopefully he picks up his play Saturday. Williams, if cut, would likely be the best option for the practice squad, but both he and C.Scott could very well wind up there.
The Steelers could choose to keep 10 linemen this year, but it would likely mean that the Steelers will only keep either 8 linebackers or 5 receivers to make room for the 10th lineman. Stay tuned as we still have several weeks to go before the season starts and plenty of time for more musical chairs. I wonder if Max Starks and Flozell Adams have picked up their watches yet…