Fernando Velasco – From NFL “Street” Free Agent to Steelers Starting Center

Note to future NFL “street” free agent offensive lineman, should the Pittsburgh Steelers contact you about joining the team in mid-season, you stand a strong chance of starting that next Sunday.

The Steelers set the precedent in 2011 with Max Starks, and now they follow it with Fernando Velasco per Gerry Dulac’s tweet:

New C Fernando Velasco will start in Cincy. Isaac Redman: “I’ve never seen anyone come in and look as comfortable in the offense so quick.”
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) September 13, 2013

The Steelers waived Max Starks in July of 2011 following the NFL lockout after his weight had reportedly ballooned up to near 400 lbs. After Willie Colon tore his triceps during the Debacle in Baltimore the Steelers turned away offers from Flozell Adams and instead opted to start then rookie Marcus Gilbert.

  • In 2011, the team desperately wanted to turn a new page on its offensive line.

But the Houston defense desperately overwhelmed Jonathan Scott the Steelers turned to Starks. He arrived at the South Side with his name penciled in as a back up, but within 24 hours the Steelers were talking about starting Max Starks and start he did.

The Steelers of course reached out to Velasco within 24 hours of Maurkice Pouncey’s ACL/MCL tear suffered vs. the Titans. Pro Football Focus rated Velasco as the 11th best center in 2012, but The Turk nonetheless darkened his door on cut down day.

Velasco’s experience with zone blocking attracted the Steelers, and Behind the Steel Curtain’s Steel34D film review confirmed Velaco’s ability in a zone blocking scheme, (a review which includes some success at Casey Hampton’s expense.)

Word that Velasco will start frees Kelvin Beachum to return to his role as primary backup across the offensive line and of course the new hat he wears, blocking tight end.

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