Friday, September 17, 2021
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2021 Training camp matches: Start center

With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what’s going on within each position and on the list as a whole. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a closer look at some of the roster games that we expect to see unfold during training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.

Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things were supposed to return to normal this year, which should help us gain clearer insight into where people stand. In particular, the return of preseason is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.

Position: Center

Up to grip: Start job

In the mix: Kendrick Green, JC Hassenauer, BJ Finney

There are three candidates for a job, and it’s not even clear if all three of them will end up on the 53-man list, though it’s a virtual certainty that at least two will be. Following the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey after 11 seasons, the Steelers find themselves on the market for a starting center for the first time in more than a decade.

They turned their attention to Kendrick Green during the draft and selected him in the third round out of Illinois despite the fact that the vast majority of his experience came on guard, and in fact he actually comes from a defensive background.

But he possesses plus athletic traits, and some qualities he lacks such as ideal arm length and height can be more easily masked in the middle position rather than on guard, which is why many, especially in hindsight, believe the center would be a better advantage level fit him.

I have no doubt the coaches are hoping Green wins the job as he is the only realistic candidate to emerge as a long-term starter. Both BJ Finney and JC Hassenauer have started games, including in the center, but they are more in terms of career backup than starters. If one were to win the job, it would be considered a bridge year.

Finney spent the 2015-2019 seasons with the Steelers before moving on to free agency a year ago, which did not go well at all. After Stefen Wisniewski was injured in early 2020, Hassenauer took over responsibility for the top backup role.

He eventually started four games last season, including three at the center of Pouncey, but reviews of his performance were mixed at best. Under contract, Finney, who has a dozen career starts including five in the center, has generally been considered to play over the line once he has been in the game.

But he hasn’t played since 2019, while Hassenauer was a bit of a surprise to even get on the team a year ago. according to reports from minicamp, Hassenauer spent most of the time during the spring setting up in the center, but training camp and preseason will open the doors for a competitive match.

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