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Steelers Analysis

Steelers Have Multiple Avenues to Address Center This Offseason

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have multiple ways they can address center in free agency and the NFL Draft this offseason.

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Pittsburgh Steelers OL Jackson Powers-Johnson

The Pittsburgh Steelers officially have put center into the forefront of their needs after releasing Mason Cole on Friday. It was a likely need that would be addressed through one avenue, either free agency or the NFL Draft, but after cutting Cole, the team may go in with a two-pronged strategy to fill the void. So, let’s at least highlight the four paths they can take, and the possible players to watch.

Stay Internal

I think this is the least likely option, but it is something to mention. The Steelers have a natural center on the roster in James Daniels, though he has played guard for several years now. But he came out of Iowa as a natural center, and so that is always one possible move. Of course, this opens up guard as a need for the team to fix if that is the move, but it is both a rich free agency class and NFL Draft group at guard.

Meanwhile, Nate Herbig is at least an option as the team’s interim center if they want to avoid free agency. Herbig is also an option to move to center himself. He has played all three interior positions in his NFL career, but has played the least center, making just 49 snaps between 2020 and 2021 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Herbig played guard and tackle in college at Stanford, so his move to center would be much more dramatic, but he has done it in the past and is certainly a serviceable NFL lineman.

So, this is just one option. Spencer Anderson can play center, too. But it seems like the least likely option because it pulls at other depth or switches the board around, maybe a bit too much.

Free Agency

The Steelers could choose to just skip the NFL Draft altogether and sign someone in free agency. This is the best free agent center class, and several names on the open market could check off the box for the team. Andre James and Lloyd Cushenberry are immediate options that would take it off the board. Connor Williams could count here, too, but coming off a torn ACL that leaves up more variables.

Are those the only three that would cross the idea off the list? Well, maybe. Aaron Brewer, Tyler Biadasz, and Coleman Shelton feel like options that would leave the NFL Draft route open but maybe at a lesser clip. It certainly would at least make the need less urgent. Of those three, Brewer feels like the likeliest given his connections to new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. But again, there are options if the team wants to just plug and play in free agency. There are even names like Evan Brown that make sense.

NFL Draft

Of course, the NFL Draft is a very realistic option, too. Zach Frazier, Jackson Powers-Johnson, Graham Barton, and Sedrick Van Pran-Granger all check off boxes to at least fit into this category, though the first three have separation. It’s not hard to see why when you put on the tape, either.

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.

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.

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 more about where these guys will all fall.

Free Agency and the NFL Draft

And the last option is probably the one I think they will go with, which is to sign a center and draft one. But it at least gives them more flexibility to add someone like Van Pran-Granger or Beaux Limmer in later rounds. For example, if they signed Brewer or Brian Allen even, they could shoot to add one of the top centers if the value is there, but it does not need to be forced.

The two-pronged strategy makes sense because it puts the Steelers in a spot to go best player available throughout the rest of the draft. Omar Khan’s first draft worked well, especially with relative value, because they nailed just about every single value piece they could throughout the rounds. If there is a gaping hole at center, that is no longer doable. So, it seems very possible they go this route, and maybe they end up with Brewer and Frazier, just as an example.