2023 Offseason Questions: Who Will Be Steelers’ Backup Center?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? How might they tackle the NFL Draft? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: Who will be the Steelers’ backup center?

Technically speaking, the Steelers have several players on the roster who are capable of playing center. However, outside of Mason Cole, the only player likely to make the roster who is a more natural center is already in the starting lineup in James Daniels. It’s unlikely, barring a long-term injury, that Pittsburgh would have Daniels as their backup center.

So that leaves the question open: who will be the Steelers’ backup center? It also begs the follow up question: will Mason Cole be the starting center? Because if he’s not, then he is the backup. And if he’s not starting at center, that very likely means Daniels is, unless they draft a rookie who can start right away.

Still, I believe it’s a question worth considering after the Steelers seemingly passed on the opportunity to retain J.C. Hassenauer. A restricted free agent, Hassenauer avoided the tender and eventually signed a one-year contract with the New York Giants. Details of the deal have not yet been reported but it may well be a minimum deal. In fact, I would say it’s likely.

Hassenauer, the Steelers’ primary backup center for the past couple seasons, seemed to be settling into a groove in 2021. He had little opportunity to play last year with the starting unit remaining healthy.

With him gone, none of the current reserves with credible experience are natural centers. Kendrick Green, who seems guaranteed to be waived at some point, started there as a rookie but there’s a reason he was inactive 17 times in 2022. Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo are both “center capable”, but you wouldn’t want them snapping the ball 70 times. I will remind you that Chris Hubbard was also center capable. So is the backup center even currently on the roster?

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