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Analyst Tabs Veteran Center as Plan B Option for Steelers

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Pittsburgh Steelers Nick Gates
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Nate Herbig before a game against the Green Bay Packers, Nov. 12, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round selection Zach Frazier is expected to be a plug-and-play starter at center. However, if an injury occurs or if Frazier struggles early on, the Steelers really don’t have an insurance policy. Nick Herbig and Spencer Anderson serving as the backup options leaves a lot to be desired. Herbig has only 49 career snaps at center and Anderson doesn’t have any.

Matt Holder of Bleacher Report thinks the Steelers should sign veteran center Nick Gates to serve as a fallback option if the Steelers want to ease Frazier in.

Holder notes that Frazier is coming off a devastating late-season leg injury last fall, which required surgery. Frazier is participating at OTAs, but the injury could potentially hold him back once the pads come on and everything is full speed.

Gates, 28, spent five seasons with the New York Giants (2018-2022) before playing with the Washington Commanders last season. He has experience playing at all three interior offensive line positions in the NFL, starting 26 games at center and 10 at guard. Gates started 10 games at center for Washington last season.

Gates received a 66.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 2023. He allowed five sacks and was called for four penalties. Gates’ versatility at all three offensive line positions could appeal to the Steelers.

Herbig confirmed that he started OTAs as the starting center, so the Steelers are not just handing the starting spot to Frazier. He’ll have to earn it. Herbig is starting at center, but he is also only playing at center, a change from last year when he primarily worked at guard.

If Frazier wants to get on the field right away, he’ll have to master the playbook and all of the calls upfront. Frazier was an academic All-American at West Virginia with a 3.88 GPA, so he’s very sharp-witted.

“I’ve just been trying to observe as much information as I can and learn as quickly as possible,” explained Frazier about studying Pittsburgh’s playbook to prepare for minicamp.

At the end of the day, it’s just football for Frazier. But he admitted that an NFL playbook is a lot more in-depth.

“There’s similarities and differences and everything,” Frazier said when asked how much more complicated an NFL playbook is than in college. “Some stuff, it’s football, but yeah, there’s definitely more detail in the playbook. … Same type of plays that we had in college – wide zone, inside zone, gap. Same plays everywhere, pretty much. So feel confident in doing that.”