Steelers 2022 undrafted free agents: Who will stay and who will go?
Offensive Lineman – Chris Owens
Alabama, 6’-3”, 305 lbs.
J.C. Hassenauer has whetted the Steelers appetite for reserve Alabama offensive lineman. Chris Owens was a top swing sub for most of his college career but he started 13 games with 12 at right tackle and one at center in 2021. Looking at his game film I’m sure he could’ve started at center or guard for other college teams.
His lack of height is probably one of the factors that led to him going undrafted but his low center of gravity makes him hard to move. He gets under big defender’s pads and moves them with his strong leg drive. Owens looked very comfortable playing center against Notre Dame in the 2020 Rose Bowl. He gave up no sacks or pressures and showed good ability pulling and trap blocking.
Owens has strong hands and knows how to use them. Once he gets his mitts on a player they have trouble getting around him. His mirroring and kick slide are good. He can pop a pass rusher, stopping them in their tracks and then re-acquire them as they try to move around him. He can ride speed rushers around the arc, keeping the pocket clean. Though he didn’t test well on his Pro day, Owens moves well, has good play strength, and above-average athleticism.
His game against Texas A&M was rough. In it, he went up against two new Steelers in DE, DeMarvin Leal, and OLB, Tyree Johnson. The Aggies overloaded his side of the field for most of the game and brought a lot of blitzes. He did well against Leal, keeping him away from the QB.
He gave up two sacks, one of them to Johnson. He also had a false start penalty and two QB pressures. It was early in the season and it was obvious Owens was still getting his legs under him at right tackle. As the game went on he did better and better. By the end of the season, he looked totally settled in at the position.
Owens is well-coached and knows how to pick up and hand off assignments. He did very well when Georgia was trying to use stunts in the SEC Championship. It was obvious Georgia was attacking Owens thinking he was the weak link in Alabama’s O-Line. They lined up the number one overall draft pick OLB, Travon Walker, across from him for the majority of the game. Owens held his own, not giving up a sack, even though Walker was hitting him with everything in his sizeable pass rush arsenal. Walker was held to 3 tackles and 1 QB hurry.
Then, I had to watch the rematch in the College Championship. It was telling that Georgia abandoned their plan of attacking Owens. They deployed Walker all over the line and he had better success. Owens went one on one in a pass rush against the mammoth and athletic NT, Jordan Davis. They locked up and Davis tried to cast him aside as he had done to other players and failed. Then Davis switched to a bull rush but couldn’t put Owens on roller skates. Owens slowed Davis down and kept him from getting to the QB.
So, that’s Owens going against two of the top D-Line draft picks trying to beat him with speed, finesse, and power, and failing. The entire Alabama O-Line looked harried all of the game and they gave up 4 sacks and 8 pass deflections. Overall, Owens did a good job but he had a false start and gave up a sack late in the game when it was all but over.
I do not agree, at all, with Pro Football Focus’s dismal grades for Owens which were: Overall Grade: 52.7, Pass Block Grade: 49.9, and Run Block Grade: 53.6. I really wish another organization would start doing offensive linemen grades. I hate giving money to that bunch of Steelers trolls.
Owens is very versatile and has played extensively at center, guard, and tackle during his time with the Crimson Tide. The Steelers love that kind of versatility which greatly enhances his chances. The team failed to upgrade its terrible O-Line during the offseason, so that also helps Owens’ chances. While he clearly has the wrong body type to play OT he appears to have enough game to be a spot starter at that position. As an interior lineman, he may have starter potential. This is another player who should be exciting to see in the preseason.
Chances of sticking: Owens has a very good chance of making the practice squad and might be developed for the final 53 as an interior lineman. He’s another offensive lineman I wouldn’t be afraid to bring in as a reserve should the injury bug bite.
Summing it all up
OLB, Tyree Johnson, and OL, Jordan Tucker look like they have a chance of making the practice squad. OT, Jake Dixon, RB, Mataeo Durant, CB, Bryce Watts, and OL, Chris Owens, have a very good chance of making the practice squad and might even see time on the roster, especially if injuries mount up. All in all, it’s a pretty good crop of UDFAs.
This year the NFL is allowing teams to keep 16 players on the practice squad. That will help everybody’s chances of sticking. The NFL also went back to having three cuts. That’s good because the Steelers have had a lot of success adding players after the second cut.
Roster Cut Dates:
Aug. 17 – Roster cut to 85 players
Aug. 24 – Roster cut to 80 players
Aug. 31 – Rosters cut to 53 players
Sept. 1 – Post-cut waiver claim ends at 4 p.m. ET
Sept. 1 – Practice squad players can be signed after clearing waivers
Which UDFAs are you most looking forward to seeing in preseason? Let us know in the comments below?