Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: C J.C. Hassenauer
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Unless the Steelers still have plans for Stefen Wisniewski this season after waiving him yesterday, the move signals the organization’s comfort in first-year center J.C. Hassenauer as the full-time direct backup at the position to Maurkice Pouncey.
The weekend provided some good news, it appears, for a couple of Alliance of American Football alumni. The Dallas Cowboys named former Orlando Apollos starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert the starter for today’s game against the Steelers, choosing to go with him over Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci.
With Pittsburgh’s decision to waive veteran offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, it also leaves them with just one reserve offensive lineman who is trained at the center position, which is J.C. Hassenauer, the starting center by the end of the year for the Birmingham Iron.
Hassenauer was one of something like eight or nine players from the AAF that the Steelers signed after the league folded last year. Kameron Kelly had the most impact, making the team as the third safety and even starting the opener, but ultimately was released after an arrest.
Because of an injury to Maurkice Pouncey in the final game of the season, Hassenauer was actually a part of the team’s 53-man roster in week 17 last year, dressing as the backup to B.J. Finney. He had spent only a part of the season on the practice squad, brought back in after being released following training camp when they had Patrick Morris claimed off waivers.
This year, however, he made the 53-man roster as the ninth lineman out of training camp. He dressed for the opener anyway due to David DeCastro’s injury, but with Wisniewski going down in the opener, he has actually already been serving as Pouncey’s backup for the vast majority of the season.
He made his debut in week five when he logged five snaps in relief of Pouncey, and then played the 11 final snaps the following week against the Browns in a blowout. Now his position as backup center, at least for the remainder of the season, appears to be permanent, a vote of confidence in the former Alabama alum.