The Steelers have multiple needs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft cycle, and after Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement on Friday, none are more urgent than the center position. With J.C. Hassenauer as the only man on the roster with any center experience, the Steelers’ top need is center. The question of who their new center will be has to be predicated on Matt Canada’s scheme and his vision for this rushing attack.
With limited cap space for a free agency splash, that lends itself to a few key candidates given this is a need that will need to be addressed by the end of Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey
Creed Humphrey is the quintessential guy who does his job, even if he is not flashy. Listen, Humphrey does not drive guys into the ground that often. He may not overpower guys to the extent that someone like Pouncey did at times with his highlights of pancakes. However, Humphrey is a strong, controlled athlete who is tough to move. He stays within his frame incredibly well and rarely goes down thanks to great balance and core strength.
Humphrey is not an elite lateral athlete compared to a guy like Pouncey, who was obviously a good mover. But he gets movement, even if that movement is not into the turf. Humphrey is a highly effective communicator and an extremely smart football player. He had to be to man that Oklahoma front for the years he did. His fantastic Senior Bowl only proved these traits more. The only question is if the signs of Matt Canada wanting to move the Steelers to a zone scheme are true, how does Humphrey fit there with his average at best athleticism?
The fit could be in question if that is what the Steelers truly want, but Humphrey has a chance to be the first center off the board in early round two.
Alabama C Landon Dickerson
The pound for pound best center in the class on tape, Landon Dickerson is everything a team could want in a center outside of some athleticism concerns. The man is a bulldozer in the open field and imposes his will upon his opponents consistently. Despite some mobility questions in space, Dickerson’s feet are delightfully nimble and he can match defensive tackles that are explosive.
Outside of those athleticism concerns, Dickerson’s injury history remains his biggest deterrent. Two bad ankle injuries, one of which required surgery, and two season-ending knee injuries are not what teams will want to see from their potential future center. Dickerson can play all five positions on the line, and truly is a first-round talent aside from his injury history. If his medicals check out, it is possible that Dickerson could be a sneaky first-round option for the Steelers.
Ohio State C Josh Myers
The definition of solid, Josh Myers is a lot like Humphrey. However, Myers has more mobility when moving side-to-side than Humphrey did in space. There is not a ton of tightness in his hips, and he appears rather fluid. That being said, Myers is still not a great natural athlete.
It all comes down to Myers’ squatty frame. He is naturally strong and has a great anchor, but that does limit some quickness he could have in small spaces. The difference is that the tightness is in his ankles rather than his hips, which makes him a capable puller. Still, Matt Canada loves inside zone, and Myers is quite a nice fit in a scheme that utilizes both gap and inside zone heavy concepts. It is hard to not see Myers being a starter early on in his career. He is a highly functional communicator, has great balance, and adequate core strength to handle power from the interior. Myers is the main option to potentially circle in Round 2.
Wisconsin-Whitewater C Quinn Meinerz
Quinn Meinerz was on almost no radars prior to the Senior Bowl. However, after an impressive performance in Mobile, Meinerz has rocketed his stock from a potential undrafted free agent to a possible Day 2 selection. Meinerz was a destroyer of worlds and ragdolled defenders all week in Mobile. His impressive hand power and most importantly, fantastic hand placement allowed him to control the point of attack perhaps better than anyone else there that week.
Meinerz is the one true guy where functional athleticism is not a true detriment. He can move well in space and reach the second level with proficiency. Prior to the Senior Bowl, he was only a guard, but he proved that he could play center more than fine, and a lot of teams are beginning to view him as a center. Despite coming from a small school, the Steelers could like Meinerz’s fit and performance enough to pick him the third-round.
Georgia C Trey Hill
The last of the big options for the Steelers on Day 2, Trey Hill is a huge man. Just watching him move on the field, it is easy to tell that Hill is not the most fleet of foot. The lack of athleticism he has can cap his ceiling, but he is a wonderfully strong football player at the point of attack. Hill can throw guys out of the club and open up great holes in a power running scheme.
Add in the fact that Hill has the anchor, strength, and pad level to be a highly functional pass protector against bull rushers on the interior, and Hill fits what the Steelers like to a good degree. The third-round still feels like a slight reach for Hill, but it is unlikely he will be around by the time the Steelers are on the clock in the fourth round. There are a lot more questions than answers for Hill than the other four listed above, but it is easy to see the Steelers liking his natural strength and push from the interior.