Graham Barton is the only center Steelers should consider in Round 1

Steelers fans are hyper-focused on Jackson Powers-Johnson, but there is a better center to target in the first round

Duke Blue Devils offensive lineman Graham Barton
Duke Blue Devils offensive lineman Graham Barton / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As we inch closer to the draft, center remains one of the top needs for this team. Given this need, I expect the Steelers to invest in the position within the first three rounds. Despite my reservations to take a center at pick 20, I can’t ignore the possibility. It certainly seems to be a popular choice amongst fans.

While everyone is quick to link Jackson Powers-Johnson as the defacto top center and thus the target for the Steelers in the first round, we really need to have a conversation about Graham Barton. I think you are looking at a safer center prospect in Powers-Johnson, but Barton has the potential to be one of the best in the league.

I’ve recently seen a contingent of fans go up in arms about the team potentially taking Barton in the first round and over a prospect like Powers-Johnson. Their argument is a simple one: he didn’t play center much in college, and neither did Kendrick Green. Green was really bad, thus Barton will be really bad.

The Steelers can’t think like this

While I would genuinely hope the Steelers aren’t in the same mindset, let me clear this up for any fan against Barton being a target due to his college position. This isn’t the same issue as Green, as Barton is a far different prospect. Frankly, I think he will be the better center (assuming he is drafted there) over Powers-Johnson.

Let’s revisit the Green selection quickly. While, like Barton, he was primarily not a center in school, there were a lot more issues with him as a prospect. He was extremely small with slightly below-average length. Those size issues were apparent on tape, as bigger and longer defenders could get Green to the ground more often than not. Those issues only got worse at the NFL level.

Barton doesn’t have the size issues. He is over 6’5 and has almost an inch of reach over Green. That is apparent on his tape, as he can use his size to anchor better, his length to make quicker contact, and his hands are constantly violent and disrupting. He is far more refined as a pass-and-run blocker. Frankly, if his size was a little better, we would be talking about Barton as a tackle prospect, not an interior player.

If you are still hung up by the Green selection, Powers-Johnson has a more similar profile to Green. If anything, that should be scaring you more than Barton not heavily playing the position in school.

So why Graham Barton?

When you put on the tape, I don’t think it is particularly close. While I could see Powers-Johnson having some earlier success as a center, I think once Barton gets his footing there, the sky is the limit. Besides his superior size, he is also a more refined blocker and anchors better. Powers-Johnson is a bit more aggressive and “nasty” as a blocker, but Barton has the better technique.

Within a few seasons, I think we could be talking about Barton as the best center in the league if everything comes together. I don’t think Powers-Johnson ever gets there, even if he earns some higher praise early on.

While there is still a very good chance that this team will go elsewhere in the first round, if center is their predetermined position, they need to take the player with superstar potential. We will have to see if the Steelers send anyone notable to Duke’s pro day, but if they do you can easily pencil Barton in as the front-runner for potential Steelers first-round picks.

Next. Steelers should reunite with this underdog to solve their depth problems at OT. Steelers should reunite with this underdog to solve their depth problems at OT. dark

For a Steelers team that has suffered through some horrible offensive line play in recent seasons, I would prefer to get the prospect with the higher ceiling at the position. That is easily Barton to me. Stop with the silly Green comparisons and watch his tape. This is a future star along the middle of the line, even if he needs some time to refine himself.