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NFL Draft Centers Emerge as Prime Steelers Targets

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Pittsburgh Steelers OL Jackson Powers-Johnson

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a gaping hole at center now with the release of Mason Cole. It’s not an unexpected move, but one that highlights just how much the team will need to address center. To their credit, they have Nate Herbig as depth, so that is not much of an issue, but having someone who can easily slot into the lineup and start is a huge problem.

It’s a loaded free agency class, and someone with Arthur Smith connections like Aaron Brewer. But the draft is ripe with three potential options in Jackson Powers-Johnson, Zach Frazier, and Graham Barton.

Powers-Johnson has played himself into legitimate first round hype. His movement skills for someone of his size, over 330 pounds, is so rare. And yet, he has only started for one legitimate season. For someone that inexperienced at center to play the way he did speaks to coaching, but also the rare player he is coming out of college.

On his lone day at the Senior Bowl, Powers-Johnson showcased elite core strength, and even reset his hands twice after getting beat initially underneath his pads. But he is a former wrestler and understands how to maximize leverage and win at the point of attack. It should be no surprise that he has already made a name for himself.

Frazier’s strong recovery from his injury and his ability to show his full health before the draft has him rocketing up draft boards. A player that was routinely linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the team’s second-round pick, the Steelers may need to use their first-round pick at No. 20 overall , trade back or trade up in the second round to make sure they get Frazier at this point.

Frazier’s NFL Mock Draft Database average continues to have him most likely to be a second-round pick, and still within the range of the Steelers. He’s currently the No. 50 overall prospect.

In the past Barton has played at left tackle and center, but he played at center in 2020. That is only one year of experience, though most teams say Barton will shift inside. The Steelers are unlikely to draft a guy who will project as a guard, so if they draft Barton, it will be because they view him as an interior offensive lineman or believe he can stick it out at tackle.

He’s a talented, smooth mover. And Barton, with all of his experience, has become one of the more polished players in this class. You can compare him closely to Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski from the 2023 NFL Draft. But his potential center capabilities make him extremely intriguing for a team like Pittsburgh.

It’s very likely, however, that one of these three players becomes Steelers at the end of the day. They build through the draft, and when there are three plug-and-play starters, that is always a big plus.