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: C J.C. Hassenauer
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The only center remaining for the Steelers from last season’s roster, Hassenauer is seemingly keeping his name in the conversation when it comes to debating who will open the season starting in that position come September.
The Steelers drafted Kendrick Green thinking that he will make a good starting center someday. The question is when that day will be, and whether or not it’s too much to expect it to be in September of 2021. Not only is he a rookie, he’s still very much learning the center position.
The coaching staff, I believe, is fully prepared to go into the season with somebody else starting there, at least initially. It’s shaping up for them to have two options, both former top interior reserves who have started multiple games at center for them in the past.
One of them is B.J. Finney, who played for the team from 2016 through 2019 before moving on in free agency last year. After 12 starts in Pittsburgh over that time, including five at center, he is back this summer with the potential chance to start.
Or it could be Hassenauer, who ended up as the top backup last year while Finney was in Seattle—and then Cincinnati—following Stefen Wisniewski’s injury and subsequent release. During his first credited season, he started two game for the team, including three at center.
According to Noah Strackbein, Hassenauer actually logged quite a bit of time lining up at center these past several weeks, more than anybody else, and at least he seemed to be under the impression that he looks like a starter.
It is not the first time I have heard a beat writer indicate that the team has a high opinion of the former Alabama lineman, higher than those on the outside. Ed Bouchette of The Athletic said as much earlier in the offseason.
Of course, ultimately, training camp and the preseason will be the determining factors. It’s perhaps just as likely that he misses the 53-man roster entirely as it is that he is starting, such is the state of the Steelers’ offensive line right now.