The Pittsburgh Steelers may have lost three starting offensive linemen this offseason, either to retirement or in free agency, but they at least addressed the position by signing two as free agents and drafting two more last month. Whether all four new faces make the list is not to be seen, but perhaps early indications point to this possibility.
According to Noah Strackbein of Sports Illustrated, Rashaad Coward has run with ‘the first team’s offensive line on the right guard during OTAsand noted that David DeCastro was not present. Coward, who entered the offseason as a limited free agent, was not offered by the Chicago Bears and signed a one-year veteran minimum deal with the Steelers to provide depth. Primarily a guard, he is also able to play tackle.
“What stood out was that Coward was never replaced,” Strackbein wrote to AllSteelers, SI’s Steelers-centered portal. “For three weeks he ran with the first team. It does not say he will be the starter this season or even get to the team, but it is a good start for someone looking for a list of placements and a team looking for depth.
He expects to compete for the ninth line role this fall with JC Hassenauer as his challenger. The top four tackle positions are set with Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, free agent Joe Haeg and rookie Dan Moore Jr., while DeCastro, Kevin Dotson, rookie Kendrick Green and BJ Finney appear to be set along the inside. It makes room for one more.
But Strackbein also writes that Hassenauer has shown himself well over the last few weeks, indicating that this will be a competition brewing through the offseason process, down through training camp and preseason.
He writes that Hassenauer has seen more time working at the center during OTAs than anyone else. He even states, though I’m not sure I would believe him, that “if they started the season today, it feels like Hassenauer would be the starter”.
Of course, it’s incredibly early in the process, and if Mike Tomlin was asked any of this, his inevitable answer would not be to pay attention to who is playing where. He will no doubt stress that new faces are getting more reps and Finney had been in the organization for five years before returning for this offseason. Hassenauer has about one and a half seasons with the team.
What I want to say is that the Steelers, and I can imagine that most teams, prefer to place at least three players who are able to play center even though they are in an emergency, something that has been the case in the past. players like Kelvin Beachum, Chris Hubbard and Matt Feiler. If Coward can play a center, it would help him a lot.