Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: iOL J.C. Hassenauer
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: While entirely predictable, second-year offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer put pen to paper in signing his exclusive rights free agent tender yesterday, guaranteeing, assuming that he makes the team, that he will be back in 2021.
If the season were to start today, J.C. Hassenauer would be on the field as the Steelers’ starting center. Of course, he is the only center currently on the roster, so that has to be taken into consideration. But he has made a few starts there when Maurkice Pouncey was unavailable last season.
And now that Pouncey has officially retired, the team is obviously on the lookout for a new starter. Chances are, that’s not going to be Hassenauer. But he did work himself into the conversation for serving as a backup lineman as a first-year player in 2020, and he can only build off of the four starts that he made last season, including one at left guard.
This was a one-year, minimum-value deal that hardly moves the needle as far as the salary cap is concerned, and it was entirely expected for the Steelers to retain him as an exclusive rights free agent, a status that means a player is unable to negotiate with other teams unless his team does not offer him any deal at all.
The next step for Pittsburgh is finding a starter. Most likely, they will endeavor to sign a veteran free agent, not dissimilar to Stefen Wisniewski last year, who can come in and offer competition at a starting spot, while still being on the cheap.
They will likely also address the center position in the draft, but they will need depth all along the interior, anyway. Kevin Dotson is likely to be the starter at left guard, and David DeCastro will be at left guard, but with Hassenauer, you still have to fill one starting spot and potentially two backup spots as well. He is just one piece of the puzzle.