The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense, and multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quote with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Who should go into the offseason process as the favorite for the ninth lineman spot: J.C. Hassenauer or Rashaad Coward?
While there is much yet to decide over the course of the next few months about what the Steelers’ 53-man roster is going to look like, there are usually about 40-45 safe bets in any given year, if not more, and I think we can pretty comfortably get to seven this year along the offensive line, if not eight.
David DeCastro, Kevin Dotson, Zach Banner, and Chukwuma Okorafor are givens as carryovers. Kendrick Green and Dan Moore, Jr. are mid-round rookie draft picks who aren’t going anywhere, which brings us to six. Presumably, Joe Haeg is safe as well. He would offer little in savings if cut, anyway. And B.J. Finney is presumably Green’s main competition for the center position, and thus would be the backup if he loses.
That leaves J.C. Hassenauer, who has been with the team for the past two seasons, and Rashaad Coward, signed as a free agent and who has started 15 of 30 games, with guard-tackle capability, vying for the ninth spot. The Steelers, and most teams, prefer to have at least three players who can play center, even if on an emergency basis, like Matt Feiler and Chris Hubbard in the past, so that might give a mild edge to Hassenauer, whom coaches reportedly like better than fans are aware of.