Since Chuck Noll arrived in Pittsburgh in 1969, the Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted 18 centers, (if you include Dermontti Dawson, who was drafted as a guard/center). Of those 18 picks, only five of them have come in the top three rounds.
Will 2016 NFL Draft elevate those numbers to 6 and 19? Should it? Let’s find out.
Steelers Depth Chart @ Center Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – the Starter
The Steelers offensive line philosophy duing first part of Mike Tomlin’s can be best described as “plug and patch.” That changed in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft when the Steelers picked Center Maurkice Pouncey.
- Since then Pouncey has been named to the All Pro team in four of his six seasons.
The more skeptical fans in Steelers Nation will quickly point out that the two seasons that Pouncey wasn’t selected as an All Pro were because he was out injured, and argue that the Steelers should eye a replacement. If Bob Labriola’s comments Steelers.com are any indication, Steelers management does not agree.
Nor should they.
Yes, Pouncey struggled with high ankle sprains at the end of 2010 and 2011. But he only missed two regular season games in 2011 and Super Bowl XLV because of it. His other two injuries were unavoidable, one when David DeCastro fell on his leg, and another suffered by a collision in the 2015 preseason.
Beyond that, Pouncey has been solid. He is a leader on the field and off the field, and the Steelers have invested in him, as Pouncey is signed through 2019 and the Steelers show interest in changing that.
Steelers Depth Cart @ Center Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – Backups
Kevin Colbert plucked Cody Wallace off of the waiver wire in before opening day in 2013, and by season’s end Wallace was starting at center.
- Wallace has shown himself to be capable replacement.
While Wallace might not be the type of dynamic player that Pouncey is, the Steelers run blocking and pass protection in 2015 remained excellent by and large and the Steelers are fortunate to have such a capable number two who can get the ball dependably to Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers brought in Doug Legursky to provide extra depth after Pouncey went down, but Doug Legursky is a free agent who has attracted little interest inside or outside of Pittsburgh.
Steelers 2016 Draft Need at Center
The fact that the Steelers worked out free agent center Stefen Wisniewski show that there is some interest in strengthening the depth chart at center. Curt Popejoy of USA Today’s Steelers Wire has suggested that this move may spell trouble for Pouncey.
- That’s possible but perhaps the thinking is more short term there rather than long.
Given all of their needs at other positions it is unlikely and would be unwise for the Steelers to target center in the 2016 NFL Draft. Now, should a player who has position flexibility to play both center and guard become available, he would merit consideration.
But when all is said and done, the the Steelers 2016 draft need at center must be considered Moderate-Low.