Of all of the Steelers needs in the 2021 NFL Draft, their need at center might be the most pressing and most prominent.
Following the retirement of longtime starter and nine-time Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers have minimal starting experience at the position.
Former UDFA J.C. Hassenauer made four starts last year, while longtime backup B.J. Finney has made 13 in his career between center and guard, but none since 2019. That give the Steelers centers about the least amount of experience of any position on the Pittsburgh depth chart.
But just because it’s one of their very top needs doesn’t mean the Steelers will be addressing center with their first-round pick. Centers aren’t typically taken before the middle to end of the first round, with other positions generally valued more highly.
This also appears to be a deeper class at center, with starting-caliber players available deep into the second day.
“The center position, it is unusually deep this year,” general manager Kevin Colbert said on Monday. “Usually the centers, there aren’t a lot of centers in a given draft, but we feel good there’s quality centers in this draft that we think are starter capable, and it’s unusual for that position.”
Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey are the consensus top two at the position, though Dickerson’s extensive injury history has some teams reportedly not considering him until late in Day Two or later.
After that, Senior Bowl standout and former Division III guard Quinn Meinerz has rocketed up draft boards. He played center in Mobile and impressed enough that he’s now a likely second-round pick.
Ohio State’s Josh Myers also projects to be a starter and should be available at the end of the third round when the Steelers pick. Former Grambling guard David Moore worked out at center at the Senior Bowl and is projected as a fourth round pick.
In addition to the pure interior linemen, North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz and Notre Dame’s Robert Hainsey are players that played tackle in college, but could project to be centers at the next level. Radunz is a likely Day Two selection, while Hainsey, a former Gateway lineman, looks to go early on Day Three.
That provides the Steelers with plenty of options if they don’t want to use their first-round pick on center, and don’t totally discount one other option as well: former Steelers lineman Trey Essex said he believes longtime starting right guard David DeCastro could make the move to center if necessary.