The Pittsburgh Steelers managed to use multiple selections on two different position groups during the 2023 NFL Draft despite the fact that their selections were relatively limited. Though the double dipping came late in the seventh round, the two players were added because the Steelers believe they have a shot of making the roster.
For offensive lineman Spencer Anderson, his best shot at making the team may well be to prove that he can hold up at center and serve as their reserve at the position. The Steelers do not currently have a backup lineman who is a natural center—though neither is he.
Primarily a tackle, the position at which he was recruited—including by Pitt—coming out of high school, that’s where he played most of his collegiate snaps for the Maryland Terrapins, but he also started five games at center there. He talked about his center experience after the Steelers selected him with their final pick in the draft.
“I played four games. I started four games at center in 2021”, he told reporters, via transcript provided by the team’s media department. “I’ve practiced at center throughout practice this past year and at center the year before that. I’ve practiced at center pretty much every time. I played it in the Shrine Bowl recently in Las Vegas, back in February, and I’ve always got a ball in my hand. It was always something that I practiced because I value that flexibility”.
The Steelers are in the market for a new reserve center because they opted not to retain J.C. Hassenauer, who occupied the role for the better part of the past three seasons. A restricted free agent in 2023, he eventually signed a one-year contract with the New York Giants, which includes a minimum base salary, but only of which $200,000 is guaranteed, according to Over the Cap.
The interior starting lineup should consist of Isaac Seumalo and James Daniels at guard, with Mason Cole at center. Cole and Daniels return from last season, with Seumalo a 2023 acquisition via free agency.
Of the reserves, the Steelers also added Nate Herbig as a free agent, whose work at center is very limited and has taken place primarily in the preseason. Ryan McCollum and Kendrick Green, the latter the Steelers’ starting center in 2021, are the only other reserves with any type of meaningful center experience, and neither are expected to make the team.
Daniels, despite starting at right guard last season, is in fact a center, having been a full-time starter there both at the collegiate and professional levels, though by now most of his NFL snaps have come at guard. This has led to some speculation that he could move to center with Cole becoming the reserve. That is a possibility, but one I would not count on.
Another possibility is allowing one of the starting guards—Seumalo also has some center capability—to serve as the reserve in the event of an injury. This is unappetizing for a number of reasons, not the least of which it requiring more moving parts.
Bottom line, I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson takes quite a lot of snaps at center throughout his rookie offseason. His best weapon remains his versatility, but proving he can back up at center seems the most direct route to relevance on this roster for him.