The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks a slight improvement from the past two seasons, during which they did not even qualify for the playoffs altogether. They have now done four seasons without securing a victory beyond regular season play.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
They did manage to go 12-4 during the regular season, and secured their first AFC North title since 2017, posting a new franchise record by opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, but of course it all fell apart after that. Their only victory after that required a 17-point comeback.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2020 season.
Player: J.C. Hassenauer
Experience: 1 Year
It seems that we are hitting the glut of Hassenauer conversation over the course of the last few days, though the convergence of articles surrounding the second-year player is largely a coincidence, the fact of his signing an exclusive rights free agent tender being the only even tying them together.
This one, however, like the free agent analysis piece, is simply because he is the next name on the list. Through the exit meetings series, we’re on to the backups now, and Hassenauer is one of the last backup linemen left up for discussion—and the last who started and finished the season with the team.
A former undrafted free agent, Hassenauer was signed by the Steelers in the Spring of 2019 after playing ball in the AAF. He would later that year be signed to the practice squad, but only after another center, Patrick Morris, was claimed off waivers. After Maurkice Pouncey was injured in week 16, he dressed as the backup center to B.J. Finney.
In 2020, Hassenauer made the roster outright, intended to be the ninth lineman, though he dressed in the opener because David DeCastro was injured. Stefen Wisniewski was injured in the season opener, however, leaving Hassenauer as the only other center, and thus Pouncey’s backup.
By season’s end, he would start four games in total, including three at center, while Pouncey was out. He also started one game at left guard after Matt Feiler was injured, though Kevin Dotson returned to fill in there after he recovered from his own injury.
The second-year man is not an ideal backup, and certainly not a starter, but he can be valuable as emergency depth, the sort of player you’d like to have as your ninth lineman, as he was intended to be last year. What his role will be in 2021 will be determined over the next couple of months in how the Steelers address the interior offensive line in free agency and the draft.