Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: Center Prospects
Stock Value: Up
I’m going to do something a little unconventional for today’s installment. Instead of talking about a player, I’m going to talk about a position, and this comes in light of the Steelers’ comments earlier this week about how they believe the new rule allowing teams to dress an eighth lineman will affect their thinking and approach, both on game days and in building their roster.
Essentially, both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert agreed that the eighth-lineman rule will be a boon for center-capable players around the league, and especially for center-only players. Not only will it make them more desirable to roster in the first place if they lack position flexibility to play guard at a sufficient level, it would even give them the chance to dress for games.
While I could be using this time to write about J.C. Hassenauer again, one has to think that it’s more likely for the team to draft a center-capable prospect who is likely to make the roster, and that will give them a good chance of keeping Hassenauer off of the roster in the first place.
Currently, only Stefen Wisniewski has either pedigree or meaningful NFL experience playing the center position on the Steelers’ roster behind Maurkice Pouncey. Hassenauer is a former undrafted free agent who wasn’t even on the practice squad for most of last season and only got called up due to injuries and losing Patrick Morris off waivers. They recently signed John Keenoy, who has a comparable back story.
Wisniewski will be in competition to start at left guard, which makes it all the more desirable to ensure that they bring in another lineman through the draft who can play center.
While this would have been true anyway, the new eighth-lineman rule only increases the desirability of taking this course of action, knowing that they can draft three centers on game day and would (possibly) not have to move Wisniewski over in the event that he is starting at guard and Pouncey gets hurt.
That of course would be predicated on the assumption that a rookie, wherever he is drafted, would have enough time this offseason to show the team he can be trusted to be the backup center.