The Pittsburgh Steelers dismissed rookie center Kendrick Green from practice today, with head coach Mike Tomlin citing personal reasons behind the excused absence. That is fine, of course, but apparently, B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer also left practice early with minor injuries. Ostensibly, that’s all the centers on the roster.
When Tomlin was asked after practice if he knows who his fourth center is, he simply said, “we know”, initially, according to the transcript of his exchange with the members of the media with whom he spoke following practice.
“We’ve always got little projects going on the side. We’ve got guys prepared to play. If you’re not working four or five snappers, you’re less than professional”, he said. He did mention Anthony Coyle, a position-flexible offensive lineman who spent last season on the practice squad.
There was a hint of this last year. When center Maurkice Pouncey was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List back in December of last year and missed a game, Coyle was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster as a COVID-19 replacement player.
The Steelers first signed Coyle, out of Fordham, in April of last year following the closure of the XFL, along with Jarron Jones, another offensive lineman who spent the season on the practice squad. He was only waived shortly before the opening of camp this past week.
Of course, it’s very rare that a team will have to spend much time worrying who their fourth center is during a season, but is certainly doesn’t hurt to know. Green, the third-round rookie out of Illinois, is projected to be the starter this year following Pouncey’s retirement. Finney and Hassenauer will be competing for that job, as well.
Should they fail to take over the role, one of them will have to be the top backup, and the other will be fighting to stay on the 53-man roster, but it is most teams’ preference to have at least a third lineman on the roster who can play center at an emergency level. If not Finney or Hassenauer, perhaps somebody like Rashaad Coward could indulge in one of those ‘little projects’ to which Tomlin alluded.
Coyle is listed by the team as a tackle, but is capable of playing all five positions in a pinch, which is no doubt one of the reasons that he stuck on the practice squad all of last season, and was the lineman who was called up to the 53-man roster when they needed COVID-19 replacements, multiple times.
Given that, he is once again putting himself in position to make the practice squad again, but it would still be an uphill climb to make the 53, especially given the number of veteran free agent depth linemen the team has brought in this offseason.