2021 Training Camp Battles: Starting Center

With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.

Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much to normal this year, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. The return of the preseason in particular is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.

Position: Center

Up for Grabs: Starting Job

In the Mix: Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer, B.J. Finney

There are three candidates for one job, and it’s not even clear if all three of them will ultimately be on the 53-man roster, though it’s a virtual certainty that at least two will be. Following the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey after 11 seasons, the Steelers for the first time in more than a decade find themselves in the market for a starting center.

They turned their attentions to Kendrick Green during the draft, selecting him in the third round out of Illinois in spite of the fact that the vast majority of his experience came at guard, and, in fact, he actually comes from a defensive background.

But he possesses plus athletic traits, and some qualities that he lacks like ideal arm length and height can be more easily masked at the center position rather than at guard, which is why many, particularly in hindsight, believe center would be a better pro-level fit for him.

I have no doubt that the coaches are hoping Green wins the job, as he is the only realistic candidate to emerge as a long-term starter. Both B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer have started games, including at center, but they are more in the mold of career backups than starters. If one were to win the job, it would be viewed as a bridge year.

Finney spent the 2015-2019 seasons with the Steelers before moving on in free agency a year ago, which did not go well at all. After Stefen Wisniewski was injured early in 2020, Hassenauer assumed the responsibilities of the top backup role.

He ultimately started four games last season, including three at center for Pouncey, but reviews of his performance were mixed at best. In contract, Finney, who has a dozen career starts including five at center, has generally been viewed as playing above the line when he has been in the game.

But he hasn’t played since 2019, while Hassenauer was somewhat of a surprise to even make the team a year ago. according to minicamp reports, Hassenauer spent the most time during the spring lining up at center, but training camp and the preseason will open the doors a competitive battle.

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