Monday night means a whole heck of a lot for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only is this likely to be Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game, but this game will shape the Steelers’ playoff outlook. Win and they’ll have a puncher’s chance of making the postseason. Lose and their playoff hopes nearly evaporate. For center J.C. Hassenauer, who could wind up snapping to Roethlisberger in his final home game, he enjoys the pressure. A mantra sent down from Mike Tomlin.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Hassenauer discussed how he’s handling the implications of Monday night’s game.
“One of my favorite Coach T quotes is, we’re like fireman, we run to the flames,” he said in audio provided by the team. “I love that expression. I think that describes this team. I think while it might be a lot of pressure to fans, to us, it’s a big game because it’s the next game. It’s one week mentality. Like I said, I think it’s just another game for us.”
It’ll be a big game for both sides. The Browns’ season will end in a loss while the Steelers’ hopes will all but dry up, essentially needing crazy outcomes in Week 18 with a loss. There’s the obvious goal of sending Roethlisberger out on a high note, too, in what is almost certainly his final season in the league. The only way Pittsburgh can play another home game is if they win out and the Cincinnati Bengals lose out. That would make Pittsburgh AFC North champs.
Hassenauer may get the nod with rookie center Kendrick Green dealing with a calf injury. Green missed Thursday and Friday’s practice, placing his status in doubt for Monday night’s contest.
“It’s a great opportunity. I don’t think we feel any extra pressure thinking we want to make it special. We want this to be a great showing for the fans and also a memorable experience for Ben.”
Hassenauer has made just one start this year, Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was a short-lived one, logging only 26 snaps before suffering a pectoral injury that shelved him on IR for several weeks. Last Sunday’s game was his first game back, replacing Green in the fourth quarter for 27 decent-enough snaps.
Even if Green is healthy enough to play, the Steelers should consider still starting Hassenauer. Green has had a turbulent rookie season, and with so much on the line, Hassenauer is the better and more trusted option.