2022 Offseason Questions: Who Will Play Center This Year?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.

This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.

Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.

These are the sorts of topics 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: Who will play center this season?

At the moment, the Steelers have about four or five players who, for better or worse, could be viewed as in contention for a starting role along their offensive line this year in the interior—that is, center and the two guard positions. Of the five, four are center-capable.

That includes their two free-agent signings, Mason Cole and James Daniels. Daniels hasn’t played center since 2019, however, during which he started the first eight games of the season there before moving to left guard. That’s the only season in the NFL in which he has played center.

Cole, who wasn’t a full-time starter last season, played four games at center and three at right guard. He was a full-time starter at center in 2018 and 2020, however, and has a couple thousand total career snaps lined up there.

Then you have Kendrick Green, going into his second season after struggling as a rookie to adjust. Barring a late-season injury, he was a full-time starter at center, logging nearly 1,000 snaps. There has been talk of moving him to guard, but general manager Kevin Colbert’s most recent comments from the Combine seemed to indicate that they expected him to stay at center.

Of course, they’ve signed two center-capable free agents since then. And we can’t entirely dismiss J.C. Hassenauer as a possibility, who has about 500 snaps logged at the position in his career, in the event that they find that Daniels and Cole (or Kevin Dotson) work best at guard and Hassenauer gives them the best performance at center.

One thing I think it’s fair to say at this point is that the Steelers’ interior offensive line is pretty open heading into the draft. They have a handful of starting candidates; it’s just a matter of which pieces fit together the best, and in which spots.

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