Steelers Trade of Kendrick Green Highlights the Danger and Unavoidability of Drafting for Need

The Steelers decision to ship Kendrick Green off to the Houston Texans for a 6th round pick in the 2025 NFL Draft is a pure admission of failure on the part of the front office.

  • Third round picks are supposed to grow into starters.
Kendrick Green, Kendrick Green Fullback

Steelers guard/center takes reps at fullback. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

Kendrick Green’s trajectory with the Steelers went in the opposite direction. He started immediately, got benched late in his first year, stood in street clothes his second year, and was dealt at fire sale prices in his third year.

  • NFL teams don’t give up on third round picks so easily. The Steelers offer no exception.

The Steelers gave the boot to just one year Bruce Davis after drafting him third in the 2008 NFL Draft. Two Septembers, they also cut rookie Kraig Urbik, but that move was a miscalculation on their part, forced by the need to carry Charlie Batch on the 2010 roster.

As the stories of Curtis Brown, Sean Spence and Senquez Golson reveal, the Steelers normally bend over backwards to give a third round second, third and fourth chances to make the team.

And in a sense, the Steelers did that with Green. They moved him to guard in 2022, sort of giving him a Redshirt year as he was inactive for all 17 games. In 2023 they gave him work at both center and guard and even repped him at fullback.

Mike Tomlin singled him out after the Bills game, making no bones about the fact that his errant snaps to Mason Rudolph were unacceptable. Green saw action at both center and guard in the win over the Falcons, and in this observer’s opinion he did pretty well.

  • Pat Meyer, Matt Canada and Mike Tomlin reached a different conclusion.

Thus ends the Kendrick Green experiment, after over a little over two years and 15 games. For a franchise that boasts a lineage at center that begins in the ‘60s with Ray Mansfield, dominates the 70’s with Mike Webster, continues into throughout the 1990’s with Dermontti Dawson and extends into the 21st century with Jeff Hartings and Maurkice Pouncey, Kendrick Green represents a tremendous disappointment.

But if Kendrick Green’s footnote in the Definitive History of the Pittsburgh Steelers will be short, his story leaves a lasting lesson:

  • Drafting for need is dangerous. But sometimes its unavoidable.

Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement hit the Steelers at the worst possible time. Neither the coaches nor the front office were expecting it, particularly since Ben Roethlisberger returned for one more go.

Not only did the Steelers need to find a center, COVID-19 had plunged Pittsburgh into salary cap hell, cutting off free agency as a means to signing a new center. That left the draft. The Steelers tried to stick to their board picking Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth in the 1st and 2nd rounds (cue the arguments that the Steelers should have taken Creed Humphrey before Najee Harris) but their hand was essentially forced by the third round, when they took Green.

You can argue that they were in the same position in the 4th round, and were essentially forced to pick Dan Moore. More, like Green struggled on, but he starts his third year by keeping 2023’s first round pick Broderick Jones on the bench.

So sometimes you can get away with drafting for need. But as The Wire’s Omar Little reminded us, “You come at the king, you best not miss.” Yep, the Steelers missed on Kendrick Green.

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Wheeling and Dealing Not Done? Steelers Release Initial 2023 Roster

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced their initial 53-man roster today as Omar Khan continued to wheel and deal.

Over the weekend Khan dealt Kevin Dotson to the Los Angeles Rams, getting a fourth round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, swapping 5th round picks and sending a 6th round pick in the 2025 NFL Draft to LA. But Kahn has already traded back into the 6th round when he dealt Kendrick Green to the Houston Texans for their 6th round pick in 2025.

Omar Khan, Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan

Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan, Photo Credit: Nola.com

The Steelers cuts included some surprises. Veterans Zach Gentry and Tre Norwood got visits from The Turk, as did free agent signees Breiden Fehoko and Nick Kwiatkoski who played nose tackle an inside linebacker respectively. Quincy Roche’s second go around with the Steelers will also come to an end.

Here’s a look at who made the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 initial roster. There is at least one more move to come as you’ll see at the bottom.

Quarterbacks – 3
Kenny Pickett
Mitchell Trubisky
Mason Rudolph
– No surprises here. Pittsburgh has perhaps the deepest quarterback room in the NFL

Running Backs – 3
Najee Harris
Jaylen Warren
Anthony McFarland
– Common Sense Attack: A running back depth chart that’s three backs deep for the 2nd straight year.

Wide Receivers – 6
Diontae Johnson
George Pickens
Allen Robinson
Calvin Austin
Gunner Olszewski
Miles Boykin
– Gunner Olszewksi showed a lot of heart in preseason. The coaches took notice.

Tight Ends – 3
Pat Freiermuth
Darnell Washington
Connor Heyward
– The deepest Steelers tight end room since 1991?

Offensive Line – 9
Dan Moore
Isaac Seumalo
Mason Cole
James Daniels
Chuks Okorafor
Broderick Jones
Nate Herbig
Spencer Anderson
Dylan Cook
– Almost a complete rebuild since 2021.

Defensive Line – 7
Cam Heyward
Keeanu Benton
Larry Ogunjobi
DeMarvin Leal
Isaiahh Loudermilk
Montravius Adams
Armon Watts
– A solid mix of veterans and youth.

Inside Linebackers – 4
Cole Holcomb
Elandon Roberts
Kwon Alexander
Mark Robinson
– Dare we hope this unit is finally finding post-Ryan Shazier stability?

Outside Linebacker – 4
T.J. Watt
Alex Highsmith
Markus Golden
Nick Herbig
– Steelers have good depth at this critical position. Knock on wood, they won’t need it.

Cornerback – 6
Patrick Peterson
Levi Wallace
Joey Porter Jr.
Chandon Sullivan
James Pierre
– Have the Steelers achieved the right balance between youth, speed and experience?

Safety – 5
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Damontae Kazee
Keanu Neal
Miles Killebrew
Elijah Riley
– Will health hold out?

Specialists – 4
Chris Boswell, kicker
Christian Kuntz, Long Snapper
Pressley Harvin, Punter
Braden Mann, Punter

Two punters? Not for long.

One way or another Omar Khan isn’t finished with his wheeling and dealing.

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Flipping the Script: Steelers Trade of Kevin Dotson to Rams Reverses Recent Trends

The composition of the Steelers roster remains unknown as Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan have the lion’s share of their cuts to make before today’s 4:00 pm deadline.

  • But we already know one fundamental fact: The duo is flipping the script on Steelers late summer trading narrative.

News broke during the weekend that the Steelers had dealt Kevin Dotson, their 4th round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft to the Los Angeles Rams. In exchange the Steelers get the Rams’ 4th round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The teams will exchange 5th rounds picks in the 2025 NFL Draft and the Steelers will send Los Angeles their 6th round pick in 2025.

Kevin Dotson, Steelers vs Broncos

Kevin Dotson as a rookie. Photo Credit: Karl Roser, Steelers.com

Time will tell which side gets the better of this deal, but the move reverses the Steelers recent tendency to trade away picks to bolster depth. To be fair to Kevin Colbert, these trades typically involved a lot of back and forth, with the Steelers dealing and often times getting back 5th and 6th round picks.

But taken as a whole, the Steelers eroded their draft capital by trading to bring the Malik Reed, Joe Schobert, Avery Williames of the NFL to Pittsburgh.

By adding an extra 4th round pick Omar Khan is beginning to change that.

Snapshot of Kevin Dotson’s Steelers Career

Although he was only a 4th round pick, Dotson arrived in Pittsburgh and was penciled in as a future starter. Dotson started 4 games as a rookie, and when the team opted to let Matt Feiler walk, Dotson earned the starting spot.

In 2021 Dotson started the first 9 games at left guard during a season when the Steelers had one of their worst offensive lines in recent memory. Yet, in this scribe’s humble opinion they were reaching the outskirts respectability by midseason, only to see that journey come to a crashing halt when they lost Dotson in the tie against Detroit.

Dotson rebounded in 2022 and started all 17 games, but was reportedly fighting nagging injuries throughout the year.

Early in the 2023 off season the Steelers brass showed signs of being read to move on. First they signed guard Nate Herbig in free agency. But Herbig’s contract tagged him as a backup. This was not the case for Isaac Seumalo who got clear starter’s money.

As the Steelers learned all too painfully early during Mike Tomlin’s tenure, you can never have enough good offensive lineman. But the emergence of Spencer Anderson and the number of snaps Kendrick Green got against the Falcons at guard put the writing on the wall for Kevin Dotson.

Getting a 4th round pick for a backup guard playing on the final year of his rookie contract is an excellent deal in today’s NFL.

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Pinch Yourself? After Steelers Dominating 27-12 Preseason Win over Bills Fans Ask, “Is it OK to Believe?”

The Pittsburgh Steelers 27-15 win over the Buffalo Bills at Acrisure Stadium offered a reminder of the existential struggle that every fan of the Black and Gold faces: The temptation to believe.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers are a franchise that measures success in Lombardi Trophies.
Jaylen Warren, Steelers vs Bills 2023 preseason

Jaylen Warren runs for 62 yards. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Steelers.com

During the 70’s Jimmy Pol’s “Western Pennsylvania Polka” accurately told us that “Winning’s a habit, not only a dream.” Generation X Steelers fans grew up assuming that the team had always been good. But the growing pains we experienced as the 70’s shifted to the 80’s was learning that Super Bowl windows don’t stay open forever.

  • And once they’re closed, convincing yourself that they’ll ever reopen remains a challenge.

I can remember watching Jepoardy at some point in the mid-80’s when a Pittsburgh resident was a guest. Alex Triebec asked him if he was one of those Steelers fans who “recorded each game and watched it over and over again.”

The response? “Yes, but only when we’re in the Super Bowl. And that’s not going to happen for another 20 years.” Although Chuck Noll’s Steelers squads in the 80’s authored some stunning playoff upsets, it took the arrival of Cowher Power in 1992 for the faithful in Steelers Nation to really believe that the season might end in a Lombardi Trophy presentation.

And even then we had to wait 14 years for The Chin to make good on his promise to Dan Rooney.

Yeah. True Steelers fans stick by the Black and Gold through thick and thin, but if pressed, we’ll admit that it is difficult to let ourselves believe.

Which brings us to 2023’s preseason game number 3, and the Buffalo Bills visit to Acrisure Stadium

Steelers Domination of the Bills in Preseason Is Down Right Scary

The Steelers 27-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers featured a lot of impressive moments. But the first string only played for one series. And the Buccaneers aren’t expected to be very good. And several of their defensive starters were out. And who really needs cautioned against jumping to conclusions after the first preseason game?

  • The second preseason game is different. It is a dress rehearsal.

It only took 6 plays – two Najee Harris runs, two Kenny Pickett passes to George Pickens and then Allen Robinson to set up Jaylen Warren’s 64 yard touchdown run. Any 62 yard run is impressive. But its the way this play unfolded that tantalizes Steelers faithful towards that temptation to believe:

You don’t need to be an X’s and O’s genius to single out the elements that signal something special:

  • Dan Moore turns his man’s back to the sideline
  • Isaac Seumalo also turns his man’s back to the opposing sideline
  • Warren sees a hole he could drive a truck through and heads for it
  • Diontae Johnson delivers a downfield block
  • Warren after he reaches the second level turns the jets on

Yes, this is “Only preseason” but these are pros executing solid fundamentals in concert.

The Bills opened their next drive with an 8 yard gain. On 2nd and 2 an NFL offense is in position to dictate to a defense. But thanks to Levi Wallace and T.J. Watt, the Bills were punting 2 plays later.

Then Calvin Austin and Danny Smith’s special teams got into the act, as Austin romped 54 yards on his first NFL punt return. The next stat line reads: K.Pickett pass deep middle to P.Freiermuth for 25 yards, TOUCHDOWN

And if all you did was read the box score, it be easy to chalk that up to preseason luck.

But Pickett not only hit Pat Freiermuth in the middle of the field – and area he avoided last season, he threaded the needle placing the ball perfectly, in triple coverage where only Mooth could get it.

Another reason to believe.

There were many more. Connor Heyward, Nick Herbig, Cole Holcomb and Tanner Muse all came up with big plays, while Chandon Sullivan, Elijah Riley and Joey Porter Jr. made interceptions. All reasons to believe.

Calvin Austin’s punt return wasn’t a one note Johnny for the Steelers special teams. Gunner Olszewski had a nice 15 yard return of his own. Danny Smith’s coverage units were strong while Chris Boswell was perfect on the night. All good signs.

  • No, Pittsburgh wasn’t perfect against the Bills.

The Steelers rushed the ball 33 times, but running backs not named Jaylen Warren looked average – at best and they didn’t have the benefit of quality run blocking. (To be fair, Anthony McFarland looked good catching the ball.) Kendrick Green mis-timed a snap to Mason Rudolph setting up Buffalo’s first touchdown.

But even of those are all things to bear in mind, the fact remains: The way the Steelers dominated the Bills is making it very hard for fans to resist the temptation to believe.

A Word about DAZN’s GamePass

Last week I skewered the viewing experience DAZN’s NFL GamePass International. This week I followed their advice and downloaded their app on to my SmartTV.

  • The results were much better.

True, my first attempt to watch the replay was unsuccessful. However, that looked to be a problem my internet connection. Image quality was a little shaky on the full replay, and I was disappointed to see that they hadn’t edited out commercials (why? If ever there would be a “Hello McFly!!!” principle of showing replays of NFL games, you’d figure editing out commercials would be one of them.)

Their Game in 40 presentation was excellent, nothing compared to the last week’s experience on the desk top. Not only was the image quality good, but they took just a little more time in between plays, and salted in some replays so that you got the flavor of the game.

 

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Steelers Preseason Takeaway: Pickett Starts Strong. DAZN’s NFL GamePass? Not so Much

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their 2023 preseason with a bang, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-17 in the 94 degree at Raymond James Stadium. While the proverbial caution of “…its only preseason” is a wise one – Jarvis Jones and Huey Richardson had outstanding preseason debuts – the Steelers checked several boxes from their “need to improve” list including:

  • Kenny Pickett made his reads quickly, threw the ball decisively and worked the middle of the field
  • George Pickens looked like a man racing against boys on his touchdown
  • Calvin Austin flashed “beep-beep” speed in burning a corner to a crisp on his touchdown
  • Anthony McFarland staked a strong claim to the number three running backs spot

The Steelers looked good in their preseason debut.

Alas the same cannot be said for DAZN’s debut with NFL GamePass International. Earlier this year the NFL announced a 10 year partnership to distribution NFL GamePass International via the international sports streaming site DAZN.

On The Athletic the news was greeted with jeers from fans in Canada and other countries who’d already experienced trying to watch NFL games via DAZN.

  • Nonetheless, I let my NFL GamePass renew and hoped for the best.

Full Disclosure: I did not watch much of the live stream as the Steelers were facing off against the Buccaneers. I had a medical test in the early evening, had to run some errands on the way home, and was only briefly able to log into the site with my new password during the game.

And to be 100% fair to DAZN the image quality (via Google Chrome, on my PC) appeared to be OK. There may have been an issue of lag between the video and the audio, but to be fair to DAZN, I can’t be sure if I’d left Steelers Nation Radio on via another window.

Which was a good omen, as I’d planned to watch it on Saturday using the “Game in 40” option. (Yes, I know that is a bit hypocritical of a blogger who has sung the praises of preseason repeatedly. Fair enough. I’ve also written that the NFL should reduce the number of TV timeouts so that preseason games only take between 2 and 2 and a half hours.)

Kenny Pickett, Steelers vs Buccaneers 2023 preseason

Kenny Pickett started the ’23 preseason strong. Photo Credit: AP, via Tribune-Review

DAZN’s NFL GamePass “Game in 40” = A Failure

However the quality of DAZN’s “The Game in 40” was atrocious.

“The Game in 40” was never a great way to watch a game because you lose a feel for the tone and tenor of events, but at least in previous years the viewing experience was pretty seamless.

DANZ’s “Game in 40” was anything but seamless. The image quality was terrible. During the middle of a play runners would begin to move in slow motion. Then you’d suffer a momentary stop. A second later things would resume, but you’d lose at least a second of action. On the next play the same sequence would repeat itself.

During my first attempt to watch DANZ’s “The Game in 40” I got pop ups advising me that, if quality wasn’t good, I should watch via an Ethernet and make sure no one else was streaming video. Well, I was already on an Ethernet, but my wife was watching videos via her cell.

So I waited again until she was in the shower. I tried again, putting all other Wifi devices on airplane mode. The quality of DANZ’s service was just as bad. By the end of Kenny Pickett’s touchdown to George Pickens it was clear that DANZ’s “Game in 40” was unwatchable.

Another friend here in Argentina had a good experience with DANZ’s NFL GamePass, but El Dr. de Acero also had a frustratingly piss-poor experience.

  • That’s a real shame.

Footage of scoring plays, key third down conversions and major highlights is easily available via Twitter, Steelers.com and YouTube. But as Chuck Noll oft reminded, you win football games by doing ordinary things extraordinarily.

Chuck Noll, Chuck Noll St. Vincents, Steelers practice no numbers

Chuck Noll’s Steelers practiced with no numbers. Photo Credit: Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated

Now I’m not going to pretend to know enough to evaluate things like whether or not Kendrick Green and/or Broderick Jones “pad levels” were promising, but would like to get a chance to see how players who don’t make the highlight reels perform.

Watching preseason games end-to-end in the ‘90’s gave me the insight into under the radar players Lee Flowers and Carlos Emmons. On the flip side, during the ’95 preseason Bam Morris was signaling a sophomore slump (and then some). More recently, in August ’21 my take away was that both the hype generated by Dwayne Haskins performances as a backup and the disillusionment following his lone start were both exaggerated.

Sadly, we’ll never know whether I was right or wrong about Haskins, but I was only able to form an opinion in the first place by watching pre-season games end-to-end.

But with the DAZN’s sudden shifts to slow motion, to stops, to skipping a millisecond I might be able to see that someone blew up a run at the line of scrimmage, but I can’t really tell if it was Kwon Alexander, Nick Herbig, or Keeanu Benton who made the play.

Nor can I really tell if Darnell Washington or Elandon Roberts are really injecting physicality on both sides of the ball.

That’s a shame. Yet there still may be hope.

For better and worse I’ve seen times with Steelers preseason has been deceiving. Sometimes preseason flashes disappear in the pan. Other times the opposite happens. When Bill Cowher and Ben Roethlisberger shared the dais after Super Bowl XL did you wonder, “…And to think Cowher closed preseason by admitting his passing game wasn’t where it needed to be.” No? Neither did I.

So perhaps DANZ’s will get better by the time the regular season arrives.

They’ve left themselves lots of room for improvement.

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Key Question: If Kendrick Green Stays at Fullback, Can He Match Derek Watt’s Streak?

So apparently Kendrick Green at fullback wasn’t a onetime thing.

The big news out of the Steelers annual Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Stadium was center/guard Kendrick Green getting reps at fullback.

Green told Steel City Insider’s  Jim Wexell, “I felt like I was a kid again playing backyard football.” Green, who got work at fullback with the team’s third offense tempered expectations conceding, “Just something they were just dabbling with. I don’t think it’s going to be nothing too serious, though. We’ll see.”

Kendrick Green, Kendrick Green Fullback

Steelers guard/center takes reps at fullback. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

After issuing similar cautions before Saturday’s practice, Green got several reps at fullback again for the Steelers, including at least one with the first team offense.

Mike Tomlin, who was not present for the “Friday Night Lights” practice, explained on Saturday “That guy is a unique guy, so we asked KG to provide a quality look for us, and he did,” before revealing “We just put that in our hip pocket.”

The Steelers started the summer with fullback Monte Pottebaum on their roster, but he mysteriously went on the reserve/retired list early in camp. Connor Heyward has been mentioned as an option at fullback, and now so has Kendrick Green is getting reps there.

  • So apparently the speculation that the Steelers will sign Derek Watt is moot.

Which makes dollars and salary cap sense. Derek Watt was an asset during his 3 years in Pittsburgh, but he was a very expensive “Nice to have” for the Steelers offense. Kendrick Green is both cheaper and offers position flexibility.

But if Mike Tomlin decides to take Kendrick Green out of his “Hip pocket” the question should be asked, “Can he match Derek Watt’s rushing streak?”

Thus far Kendrick Green’s reps at fullback have seen him block while catching a few passes from Mason Rudolph. But the hidden value Derek Watt added to the Steelers offense was in short yardage carries: Derek Watt only carried the ball 10 times for the Steelers, but Pittsburgh went 9-1 in those games.

  • If Kendrick Green can deliver at even remotely that level, this little experiment will be worthwhile.

One final factoid to remember: Kendrick Green wouldn’t be the first Steelers guard/center to do double duty at fullback.

During the Steelers 2009 season, center/guard Doug Legursky saw action at fullback. One of those games was Rashard Mendenhall’s 165 yard, career-best performance against the San Diego Chargers – Just Say’in….

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Steelers 2023 Draft Needs @ Center & Guard – Is Pittsburgh Set?

Let’s face it. Offensive line isn’t “Sexy.” An offense might need to field five lineman, but the other six men are said to play “The skill positions.” Even then, interior offensive lineman get short shrift.

Quibble you do?

Take a look at how NFL teams prioritize Center and Guard in the draft and in how they spend their salary cap. Heck, offensive tackles get Hollywood movies made about them. Try making On the Blind Side about a guard.

True as that may be, the Pittsburgh Steelers have more interior offensive lineman in the Hall of Fame, see Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Alan Faneca, than they do wide receivers (Lynn Swann and John Stallworth).

During the last two springs both Kevin Colbert and Omar Khan have invested heavily in interior offensive line positions. Does that mean the Steelers can ignore them in the draft? Let’s take a look.

Mitch Trubisky, James Daniel, Mason Cole, Steelers 2022 Offensive Line

Mitch Trubisky at the line of scrimmage. Photo Credit: AP, via Tribune-Review.

Steelers Depth Cart at Center and Guard: The Starters

The leader of the Steelers offensive line is unquestionably James Daniels. Kevin Colbert signed him last spring to a 3 year 26 million dollar contract, after Daniels had finished four years as a starter in Chicago.

James Daniels not only leads the team in terms of talent and salary, but also in terms of attitude. When the Buffalo Bills hit Kenny Pickett late, Daniels wasted no time in defending his quarterback – just what you need to see from your top offensive lineman.

Last year Colbert also signed Mason Cole to play center, after Cole had played for 3 years in Arizona and 1 Minnesota. Cole helped shore up a position that had been a weakness was solid all season.
Here’s where it gets interesting.

Officially speaking, Kevin Dotson is the Steelers other starting guard. Kevin Dotson was the Steelers 4th round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and while he missed games in both 2019 and 2020, the Steelers line was certainly stronger with him playing. Dotson fortunately played all 17 games in 2022.

But that didn’t stop Omar Khan and Andy Wedil from going out and signing Isaac Seumalo, who brings 7 years of NFL experience with the Philadelphia Eagles totaling 81 games and 60 starts, including 17 last season. The money the Steelers are paying Seumalo makes it clear that they’re not bringing him to Pittsburgh to be a backup.

Steelers Guard and Center Depth Chart: The Backups

When talking about depth at guard and center it would remise not to point out that both James Daniels and Isaac Seumalo have some experience at center. As does Nate Herbig, whom the Steelers signed as a free agent from the New York Jets (although he is another ex-Philadelphia Eagle.)

Steelers Draft, Steelers Draft Needs scale

The Steelers also have Kendrick Green, their 2022 3rd round pick who was their starting center for most of 2022. Green also has position flexibility at guard, and many feel he’s more naturally suited there.

The Steelers 2023 Draft Needs @ Center and Guard

“You can never have enough good offensive lineman” the old adage goes. And that’s a sound philosophy. But the Steelers have three if not four starter-capable guards, a former 3rd round pick, and an established starter at Center.

And oh, by the way, 3 of those guards have experience playing center. And the Steelers only have 7 picks this year. Therefore, their need at both center and guard going into the 2023 draft should be considered as Negligible.

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Wedil Paints a Pickett Fence: Steelers Sign Isaac Seumalo, Guard, from the Eagles

Wow. Woke up this morning to see the Steelers signed guard Isaac Seumalo from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Talk about a blogger falling asleep at the switch. Due to personal/family reasons had kept me from writing about any of the Steelers free agent moves save for the loss of Cam Sutton and signing of Patrick Peterson.

  • And of course they came in rapid succession after that.
Isaac Seumalo, Steelers vs Eagles

Isaac Seumalo lines up against the Steelers. Photo Credit: Indianapolis Star

Saturday was the first day I was able to pick up my pen, so I wrote about Nate Herbig signing as an indication of Andy Wedil’s influence. Figured that as free agent news is typically slow on the weekend, I could run the Herbig story on Sunday morning, use Sunday to write about the inside linebacker situation with the signings of Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb and that would be that.

  • But Omar Khan and Andy Wedil are marching to their own drummer, aren’t they?

And there can be no doubt that Andy Wedil is deliberately leaving his finger prints on the Steelers roster. Isaac Seumalo is a 6-foot-4, 303-pounder whom Pro Football Focus rated as the NFL’s ninth-best guard in 2022. At age 29 Seumalo only gave up one sack and started all 20 games for the Eagles.

How does he fit in?

Well, to quote Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell, that’s “…a mystery to team sources not named Mike Tomlin and OL coach Pat Meyer.” Herbig’s arrival signaled that Kevin Dotson’s starting job was likely on the line. The arrival of Herbig and Seumalo mans that Dotson will have to fight for a roster spot.

Kendrick Green’s chances of making the team just got very, very complicated. And it is also very unlikely that J.C. Hassenauer, whom the Steelers made an unrestricted free agent, will get a chance to return to Pittsburgh.

In an exchange with readers Jim Wexell shared, “Someone called it building a Pickett Fence. I love it.” The metaphor is apt. Pickett fences are white, and white is an official alternative color to the Steelers Black and Gold.

But this white Pickett fence has a definite hue of green.

Follow Steelers free agency. Visit our Steelers 2023 Free Agent tracker or click here for all Steelers 2023 free agent focus articles.

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Weidl Effect? Steelers Signing Nate Herbig, a Road Grading Guard, May be Sign of Andy Weidl’s Influence

So far everything the Steelers have done in free agency has been by the book. Well, ok “by the book” if you channel your Ben Kenobi and agree that its “by the book from a certain point of view.” Which is to say that by signing 33 year old cornerback in the form of Patrick Peterson is not something the Steelers typically do.

But all things consider equally, the Steelers would have preferred to keep Cameron Sutton. When Cam Sutton signed with the Lions the Steelers needed a starting corner and turned to Patrick Peterson.

Ditto the signings of Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb – personnel moves at inside linebacker have been a staple of Steelers off seasons for the last 5 seasons. (More on that in a day or so.)

  • But the Steelers decision to sign Nate Herbig is an outlier.
Nate Herbig

Steelers newest guard Nate Herbig. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

While it’s a given that the Steelers need depth at offensive line, those conversations had typically focused on tackle. Behind Mason Cole, James Daniels and Kevin Dotson the Steelers had J.C. Hassenauer and Kendrick Green. Guard wasn’t considered an area of need.

Yet the Steelers wasted little time in signing Nate Herbig for 2 years at 8 million dollars with Herbig getting 3 million of that in guarantees. That’s not crazy money for an NFL guard – James Daniels is going to have a cap number $11,166,666 this year, but there are certainly starting guards that make less in today’s NFL.

  • That means that heading into his contract year Kevin Dotson is going to need to fight for his starting job.

The move is also the first sign of Assistant General Manager Andy Weidl’s influence. Herbig came out early from Stanford and that probably cost him getting drafted. But the Philadelphia Eagles signed him. When Joe Douglas left Philadelphia for the New York Jets he signed Herbig. And now he’s followed Weidl to Pittsburgh.

During his time in Philadelphia, Weidl developed a reputation as a personnel man who bought into the idea that football games are still won and lost at the line of scrimmage. (See the Eagle in people moving mode on short down situations in the Super Bowl.)

At 6’4” and 335 pounds, Herbig is in the 93rd percentile of offensive guards. By all accounts he’s a road grader in the run game even if his pass pro skills remain a work in progress. When asked about where he would play, Herbig quipped he’d play punter if the Steelers asked him to.

Just the attitude you’d like to see in an offensive lineman.

Cutting Them Loose – Steelers Don’t Tender RFAs

The Steelers also made another uncharacteristic, if under the radar move: They didn’t tender any of their four Restricted Free agents.

The Steelers had until 4:00 pm on Wednesday to offer tenders to J.C. Hassenauer, James Pierre, Jeremy McNichols and Steven Sims.

Most people probably don’t know who Jermey NcNicols was so that’s no surprise. Hassenauer has some starting experience, but he wasn’t much of a surprise. But Sims is their de facto 3rd wide out and James Peirre was their starting cornerback at year’s end.

So it is a bit of a surpise that Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin opted to let those guys reach the free market.

All remained unsigned at this point, so they could still remain in Pittsburgh.

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No Restrictions: Steelers Should Resign J.C. Hassenauer But Not Extend an RFA Tender

Like characters in a story, every NFL player’s career has an arc. Follow a player’s arc and most of the time it reveals a lot about the individual’s talent, dedication and character. Just think of Jerome Bettis “face of the franchise” career journey and you’ll see what I mean.

Yet sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes a player’s career arc reveals more about the team than the player. Such is the case with J.C. Hassenauer who is about to become an Restricted Free Agent.

J.C. Hassenauer

Steelers center J.C. Hassenauer. Photo Credit: AP

Capsule Profile of J.C. Hassenauer’s Career with the Steelers

After watching undrafted rookie free agent J.C. Hassenauer spend 2018 going on an off the Atlanta Falcon’s practice squad, the Steelers signed him in the spring of 2019 and he made the practice squad earning a promotion to the active roster for the season finale against Baltimore.

Hassenauer got his first start against Baltimore in November 2020 at center and started two more games at center and one at guard due to injuries to Maurkice Pouency and Matt Feiler. J.C. Hassenauer started against the Chargers in 2021 when Kendrick Green was out, and started the final two games of the season plus the playoff loss to the Chiefs.

In 2022 Hassenauer only logged 46 snaps with the offense, but he did log 71 special teams snaps, a slight increase from two years before.

The Case for the Steelers Resigning J.C. Hassenauer

The Steelers know what they have in J.C. Hassenauer. He brings position flexibility to the interior of the offensive line.

The Case Against the Steelers Resigning J.C. Hassenauer

J.C. Hassenauer isn’t going to keep any opposing defensive line coach up at night. Position flexibility is nice, but is it really worth $2.627 million? For a guy that in his third year play 46 snaps? You’re kidding right?

Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and J.C. Hassenauer

At first glance the J.C. Hassenauer’s career arch of starting 7 games at two positions in 2020 and 2021 and then failing get on the field in year 3 seems pretty damning. But in reality, this reveals more about the sorry state of those Steelers offensive lines than it does about J.C. Hassenauer.

J.C. Hassenauer has some serviceable skills and an ability to step in and play or even start of a pinch at guard or center. Kind of a modern day Doug Legursky lite.

  • But even if that is true, is Hassenauer worth $2.627 million restricted free agent tender?

Probably not. Even without thinking about who the Steelers might draft, Kendrick Green brings the same position flexibility at a far lower salary cap hit. The Steelers should most certainly bring Hassenauer to St. Vincents, but they can do so for far less than 2.6 million.

Follow Steelers free agency. Visit our Steelers 2023 Free Agent tracker or click here for all Steelers 2023 free agent focus articles.

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