The Pittsburgh Steelers traded two guards in order to cut their roster down to 53 players ahead of the regular season. But when tasked to pick a free agent addition that makes sense for each NFL team ahead of Week 1, Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine picked a guard for Pittsburgh.
Ballentine argued that the Steelers should consider signing veteran guard Gabe Jackson.
“The 32-year-old is getting up there in years, but he has started at least 15 games in each of the last three seasons,” Ballentine wrote. “Last year, he allowed only two sacks for the Seattle Seahawks, per PFF.
“The Steelers have a young offensive line in general, so bringing in another veteran voice with a wealth of starting experience wouldn’t be a bad move. They need to protect second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett to have a successful 2023 season.”
Jackson started 15 games for the Seattle Seahawks last season. He also started 16 games in Seattle during 2021.
Prior to that, Jackson spent seven years with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Gabe Jackson Brings Veteran Experience
Whichever team signs Jackson will be adding a guard with a lot of experience.
The then-Oakland Raiders drafted Jackson in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft. He played immediately as a rookie, starting 12 games in 2014.
Jackson has started at least 11 games in all nine of his previous NFL seasons. Overall, he’s started 130 NFL games, playing both left and right guard.
The Steelers don’t currently have a spot in the starting lineup for Jackson. Given his history of starting, he may wait and sign with a team that needs him as a starter.
But his experience would be valuable to the Steelers off the bench. Even with the talent and experience the Steelers already added to their offensive line this offseason, teams cannot have enough depth when it comes to blocking for a young quarterback.
How Gabe Jackson Could Fit With the Steelers
Just prior to the final roster cutdown day deadline at 4 pm ET on August 29, the Steelers traded both guards Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green.
Clearly, neither player was going to make the roster. Instead of Dotson and Green, the Steelers kept nine other offensive linemen, including four guards.
Pittsburgh’s top backup guard entering the season is Nate Herbig, who the Steelers signed in free agency. Seventh-round pick Spencer Anderson, who played four positions along the offensive line during the preseason, will also provide depth at guard on Pittsburgh’s bench.
As Ballentine noted, Herbig suffered an injury during practice on August 5. But while his status remains uncertain, it’s hard to believe the Steelers would trade both Dotson and Green if they had serious doubts about Herbig’s status.
With that in mind, the Steelers don’t really have space for Jackson. At 32 years old, he’s not an upgrade over Herbig. He’s also not as versatile as Anderson, and the Steelers love versatility with their backup offensive linemen.
That was another factor in Pittsburgh departing with Dotson and Green — Anderson can play more positions.
Although the Steelers appear to be a long shot to sign Jackson before the season, adding the veteran can’t be ruled out as a possibility. If Pittsburgh loses one of its guards to a serious injury early in the season, then Jackson could quickly become a free agent target for the Steelers.
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