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2021 Offseason Questions: How Much Will Big Ben’s Comfort Level Factor Into Center Competition?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. 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. 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. 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 quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: How much will Ben Roethlisberger’s comfort level with the center factor into the decision about who will start?

For the first time in more than a decade, the Steelers are going to have a new starting center in 2021. While they did draft somebody to play the position, it’s not yet set in stone that he is going to be there in that spot on day one.

That would be Kendrick Green, the third-round pick out of Illinois. A plus athlete for the position, he does come into the league with minimal experience actually lining up at center, which is obviously a reason for some concern. It’s also difficult in general for rookies to start immediately, at least without some hurdles that affect play.

The thing is, it’s not as though he has a lot of high-level competition. B.J. Finney is the most experienced as a sixth-year veteran with 12 career starts, five at center. J.C Hassenauer only made the initial 53-man roster last year because Finney left in free agency, but he still started four games, with two at center.

Neither are likely viewed as anything more than potential bridge options, but it’s entirely reasonable that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might be more comfortable initially playing with one of the two, as he has experience with both, including multiple starts taking the ball from them. So is it possible that the player with whom the quarterback is most comfortable, rather than the player who is the best center, starts there to begin the season?

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