The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Will J.C. Hassenauer remain at center?
Steelers starting center Kendrick Green has had his participation affected in the past two weeks due to availability issues. Two weeks ago, he was dealing with an injury that prevented him from practicing until the end of the week. For this past game, he spent two days on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
Due to the lack of practice participation for the rookie, the Steelers’ coaching staff opted to start second-year J.C. Hassenauer in each instance. With that body of work now on film, however, and with Green presumably at full availability heading into the Wild Card Round, the team now has a decision to make: Who is going to be their starting center?
Green has struggled a lot during his rookie year, and even head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that he has faded somewhat as the season has worn on. This would provide the coaching staff the ideal opportunity to Wally Pipp him, at least for the remainder of this postseason run.
It is possible that the team would have visited the possibility of benching him earlier, but you will recall that the Steelers have had a lot of availability issues along the interior offensive line, with all of Hassenauer, B.J. Finney, and Kevin Dotson spending time on the Reserve/Injured List. The latter two are still there.
Pittsburgh had a great rushing day two weeks ago with Hassenauer at center, though the run game suffered a lot this past week, with Najee Harris getting injured on the opening drive, and going up against arguably the best rushing defense in the league. The Chiefs, however, do not have a great run defense.