As a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last three seasons, interior offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer has had a unique relationship with legendary quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
From starting in a pinch due to injuries, or coming into the game cold off the bench in recent seasons, Hassenauer has had to be the guy right away at center at times, inserting himself into a situation where Roethlisberger has expected things a certain way from his center and offensive line leader for the last 18 seasons, from guys like Jeff Hartings and Justin Hartwig, to Maurkice Pouncey for so many seasons, to rookie Kendrick Green this season.
Now, ahead of the Week 17 matchup against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football, Hassenauer finds himself in a unique situation once again, likely starting at center and snapping the football to Roethlisberger in what is very likely his final regular season game at home in his illustrious 18-year NFL career that will see him inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the coming years.
Knowing what Monday night means for not only Roethlisberger, but also his own career and a potential break he needed, Hassenauer is looking forward to the AFC North battle with the Browns, while also cherishing his relationship with the veteran quarterback for at least one more game.
“I’ve been working with him now for three years, so it’s definitely a special kind of relationship,” Hassenauer said to reporters Friday, according to video via Steelers.com. “It’s not too often that you get to snap to a gold jacket type of guy like him. I definitely have a lot of respect for him. I think he’s a great leader, both on and off the field. I’m just blessed to be able to work with him.”
Though he’s started just five games in his three-year career with the Steelers (two on the 53-man roster), Hassenauer has been able to carve out a role at center and both guard positions for the Steelers, making him a valuable commodity to keep around the last few seasons. Where he’s made his biggest impact though has been at center, where he’s been able to develop chemistry snapping the football to not only Roethlisberger, but quarterbacks like Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges and even Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs.
The most important relationship though is with Roethlisberger, and that will come into play on Monday night when Hassenauer is expected to start at center in place of Green, who has really played some poor football in the last month or so and is also dealing with a calf injury. That chemistry developed over the years will come into play quickly with Roethlisberger against a tough Browns’ front seven.
“Yeah, I think it’s developed well,” Hassenauer said to reporters regarding his chemistry with Roethlisberger. “This is my third year with him, so just over time, that natural relationship builds. But to answer your question, I think that chemistry is developed significantly. I feel very confident and I think he has confidence in me as well.”