For over a year, second-year guard Derwin Gray was one of those players who was always present, but often forgotten.
Perhaps the fact that he was the last player picked in the Pittsburgh Steelers nine-player 2019 draft class, may have much to do with why he was somewhat left behind. Yet, when it comes to players like Gray, when given their opportunity, they generally make a big impression.
Coming out of the University of Maryland, Gray was a two-year starter, who earned Honorable All-Big Ten mention in both his junior and senior year. In his junior year, he was recognized as one of the top passing/ blocking lineman in the nation, and was awarded the James M. Tatum Memorial Award as the team's best lineman. Despite his status in the draft, Gray had established a reputation as one of the most accomplished linemen in the Big Ten Conference.
There were very few positives in the Steelers loss to their division rivals, Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. If one were to find something to build on, it was Gray's blocking abilities against the Bengals defense. If anything, his physicality was a well-needed addition to an offensive line had sorely lacked in this aspect the last few weeks.
Arguably his biggest contribution came in the third quarter, on Benny Snell Jr.'s 29-yard run. It seemed that each time he came onto the field, Snell was his most efficient.
Coming into a pivotal week 15 contest against the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers continue to deal with an offensive line that has slowly been returning back to health. For an offense has regressed dramatically in the last three weeks, blocking has been a major problem. If Gray's insertion is key to opening up their ground offense, expect to see more of him down the stretch.