Steelers to make center a huge priority after Maurkice Pouncey officially retires

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53). Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53). Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

With Maurkice Pouncey now officially retired, the Steelers will make the center position a top priority in the NFL Draft. 

Since the Steelers 2021 season abruptly ended in disappointment, one image still sticks vividly in our minds: Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey sitting together long after the playoff game had ended. While we don’t know what was said in those moments, we could only assume that they discussed their futures and whether or not they would give it one last go.

Pouncey had apparently flirted with the idea of retiring, and it was leaked that he would be hanging up his cleats this offseason. It turns out that this rumor had some truth to it. The 2-time first-team All-Pro and 9-time Pro Bowl center is walking away from the game for good, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports:

Pouncey’s play really dropped off over the past two seasons and he finished among the worst centers in the league in both 2019 and 2020, according to Pro Football Focus. It will be hard to wipe the memory of his dreaded final game against the Browns from our minds. However, he still turned out to be a terrific former first-round pick by the Steelers all the way back in 2010.

Center becomes a top priority for Steelers

The center position was already high on Pittsburgh’s offseason to-do list before, but with Pouncey now retired, center is now the Steelers top priority. Pittsburgh cut Stefen Wisnewski during the season and he soon signed back with the Kansas City Chiefs. J.C. Hassenauer is the only remaining center on the team, but even he is an exclusive rights free agent this year.

When Hassenauer did take the field, the results were poor. Free agency would typically be an option for Pittsburgh here, but they will have a hard enough time clearing cap space for their own players – let alone trying to find enough money to sign a starting center.

Because of this, it’s entirely likely that the Steelers address the center position very early in the NFL Draft. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey is the number one player at the position this year, by most accounts. Humphrey followed up his impressive 2020 tape with a dominant showing in Senior Bowl drills.

While I think he is deserving of a later first-round pick, his likelihood of being drafted by the Steelers will depend on how they view him. Landon Dickerson is possibly the only other option that could come in and start right away if Pittsburgh addresses center in the draft. However, he suffered a brutal knee injury late in the SEC Championship game and rehab could cause him to miss some time at the beginning of the season – likely making him a second-round pick.

Outside of these two centers, the only other player I really like at the position is Wisconsin-Whitewater standout, Quinn Meinerz. Meinerz was arguably the most impressive player on either team at Senior Bowl practices, but coming from such a small school is extremely concerning, and he obviously cannot be considered until some point on day two.

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Whether the Steelers want to admit it openly or not, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be eyeing centers heavily this offseason. If they aren’t able to get a quality player in free agency to fill the void, it’s almost a lock that Pittsburgh will take one in the first two rounds in the 2021 NFL Draft.