The Pittsburgh Steelers well underway with the offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the heart of the offseason, where hope springs eternal following a few months of pretty significant changes, in terms of both departures and arrivals.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who will be the number three center this season?
Because of the Steelers’ depth along the offensive line this offseason, they are in a bit of an interesting place. I believe that seven roster spots are already locked down—with B.J. Finney and the loser of the right tackle battle between Chukwuma Okorafor and Matt Feiler serving as the game-day reserves—but the final two roster spots are more up for grabs, and can go in a number of directions.
There are Jerald Hawkins and Zach Banner, both of whom have been on the roster before. it’s possible that both of them can make it, but more likely only one will. Perhaps neither of them will. Patrick Morris is a center who was on the practice squad last year. J.C. Hassenhauer, another center with experience in the AAF.
Then through the draft and college free agency, they added Derwin Gray, Damian Prince, Fred Johnson, and Garrett Brumfield. Every one of these players has been acknowledged or recognized in some form or fashion, so it arguably looks like the deepest group they have had in recent memory.
But one question that always has to be asked is this: who plays center if you lose your starter and your backup? What happens if Maurkice Pouncey goes down and Finney isn’t available? Last year, the emergency center was, presumably, Feiler, even though he was starting at right tackle.
That wasn’t the plan, and in fact he arguably started the season as the number two interior reserve as a healthy scratch. If he loses the starting right tackle job, he could end up kicking inside again, or be kept outside.
That depends on who else makes the roster. If either Morris or Hassenhauer are able to make the jump, you have your answer to the question. If neither do, then it’s hard to see it being anyone other than Feiler, since nobody else, to my knowledge, has even practiced it. Brumfield and Johnson are the only ones who have been interior players, Gray and Prince having been tackles in college.