The Pittsburgh Steelers brought in a relatively light undrafted free agent class, only signing seven undrafted free agents. One of them was former Iowa State interior offensive lineman Trevor Downing, who has experience at both guard and center. In an article for The Athletic, Nick Baumgardner listed Downing as an undrafted prospect to watch for the Steelers.
“Downing, despite being light (6-3, 299 pounds), has started full seasons at center and both guard spots. He’s better at guard, but his lack of length is going to be an issue there. If he can keep getting stronger, he has the smarts to stick,” Baumgardner wrote.
While Downing isn’t the most exciting name Pittsburgh added (to be fair, they didn’t add many) given his experience at center, he makes sense as a name that could stick on the roster. While the team spent a seventh-round pick on Spencer Anderson, who has similar guard/center versatility, Downing is in a position where he could beat out Anderson for a 53-man spot or even just beat him out at center and leave Anderson to play primarily guard. The Steelers don’t have a lot of depth behind Mason Cole at center. Right now, it’s really just Ryan McCollum, who the team signed during training camp last season and spent 2022 on the practice squad.
Downing has an interesting backstory, as he grew up on and worked on a family farm that has spanned five generations. That farm boy strength lends itself well on the football field, where Downing was second-team All-Big 12 as a center in 2022 after being first-team All-Big 12 as a guard in 2021. That season he blocked for current New York Jets running back Breece Hall, who ran for 1,472 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also has the character Pittsburgh looks for, as he was a team captain for the Cyclones.
The knock on Downing is his size at 6’3 and 296 pounds. If he puts on some weight, he’ll look better as an NFL interior blocker; right now he’s a little bit undersized. But he’s a steady blocker, particularly in the run game, and it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see him battle for a spot on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster until the very end, particularly due to its lack of depth at center.
It’s conceivable that Anderson, who has played guard more recently than Downing despite his capability to play center, sticks at guard while Downing and McCollum duke it out for the backup center job that’s open after J.C. Hassenauer’s departure in free agency to the New York Giants. It’ll be interesting to take note of how many center reps Downing and Anderson respectively earn at rookie minicamp this weekend.