One can argue that the only true hole in the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least on the offensive side of the ball, is at the center position. At least when it comes to tackle and guard, you have projected starters like Kevin Dotson and Chukwuma Okorafor. Even if head coach Mike Tomlin urged outsiders to take spring depth charts, such as they are, with more than a grain of salt.
The Steelers do have a couple of centers on the roster who have started some games, in the form of J.C. Hassenauer and B.J. Finney. Those would likely be more emergency options, though, failing the acquisition of an alternative. Fortunately for the team, at least according to general manager Kevin Colbert, this is a better year than most to find a center in the draft.
“The center position, it is unusually deep this year,” he told reporters earlier today during the Steelers’ pre-draft press conference. “Usually, there aren’t a lot of centers in a given draft, but we feel good. There’s quality centers in this draft that we think are starter-capable, and it’s unusual for that position.”
This is notable because Colbert did not previously express this level of confidence in the center position earlier this offseason when he talked about how deep the class of offensive tackles was, saying in fact that “center and guard traditionally is not a very strong group in any draft.”
Clearly, as the draft process has gone along, he and his crew have found that this is not quite a traditional draft for the center position. Which, again, is good news for a Steelers team looking for a new center for the first time in over a decade.
That would be due to the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, of course, the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, who made nine Pro Bowls over the course of his 11-year career. He has started 134 games for the Steelers over that length of time, but now they are in need of a new starter.
There are some talented centers coming out of college this year, though not necessarily without some red flags, such as Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and his injury history. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey and Trey Hill of Georgia are two of the top names in this class, as well as Quinn Meinerz, Jimmy Morrissey, and Josh Myers.
It seems unlikely that the Steelers come out of this draft class without a center. Whether or not he becomes a day-one starter remains to be seen. They do have the option of using Finney or Hassenauer as a bridge starter, even for a year if necessary, before passing it along to a draft pick.