Most likely Steelers center target by round of the NFL Draft

Penn State offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad (OL53)
Penn State offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad (OL53) / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2024 NFL Draft almost upon us, I want to break down some likely draft positions the Steelers are targeting and see just who makes sense in every given round that the team currently has a pick in. While there are a handful of likely positions that this team will target in the draft, there isn’t a concrete plan of what position will go in what round.

With the Steelers holding picks in the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth rounds of the draft, I want to see what players at certain positions of need make sense. This list takes a lot from my list of 100 prospects that make sense for the team as well as players that fit what this team looks for typically.

I have already covered the receivers and tackles, so the focus now shifts to arguably the biggest need on the roster, a center. Following the release of Mason Cole, there has been no clear starting option at center for this team. With no notable free-agent additions here, that hole remains. This team seems to be banking on landing a starting-caliber center early in this draft class.

Steelers first-round center target: Graham Barton

There is only one center worthy of first-round consideration in this class, and sorry to all of the Jackson Powers-Johnson fans but it isn’t him. While he played mostly tackle at Duke, the expectation is for Graham Barton to move inside at the pro level as his size and length profile better there.

For a Steelers team that has been lacking elite center play for quite some time, Barton presents himself as a potential long-term solution. He is a great athlete for his size and plays well in space. He is a mauler as a blocker but also plays with incredible technique. The biggest concern is his length, but he has long enough arms to thrive along the interior.

If this team is dead set on taking a tackle in the first round, it has to be Barton or bust. Yes, he will need some time to get comfortable at center full-time, but he isn’t Kendrick Green. Barton has the potential to not only be the best center from this class but also one of the best centers in the league.

Steelers second-round center target: Zach Frazier

I was very close to putting the aforementioned Powers Johnson here, as I think there is a good chance that he falls into the middle to late second round based on the historical lack of emphasis on centers in the draft. On top of this, it seems like Zach Frazier is making a late push-up boards. I think both could slip into the 40’s of this draft and be prime candidates to be the Steelers second-round pick.

I still feel like Frazier is primed to fall a little farther though, and because of that, I give him the nod over Powers Johnson. Frazier isn’t a bad player by any means. He is your classic, gritty center who is a bully in the run game and can hold his own in pass protection.

He screams consistent and good-not-great to me, but if he can handle the center job for the foreseeable future, that is fine with me. Assuming this team looks elsewhere in round one, he seems like a perfect fit in the second round and can play sooner rather than later.

Steelers third-round center target: Sedrick Van Pran

It feels like Sedrick Van Pran is the Steelers “break glass in case of emergency” center option this year. He lacks the upside of the trio of names ahead of him, as he is in a clear second tier of prospect. That said, he is an experienced name from a big school and has faced some of the top competition in football over his time at Georgia.

His lack of length can cost him at times, but he is functional as a run blocker and works well in space. He needs to sharpen his technique as a pass blocker, but you can likely get away with plugging him in as a rookie and bearing through the occasional bad rep. His ceiling is capped, but if the team misses out on the more highly sought-after centers, he makes a lot of sense.

Steelers fourth-round center target: Hunter Nourzad

Hunter Nourzad is an interesting name in this class. He falls into the middle tier of center prospect, but he has decent size and length for the position. He also tested well as an athlete and played well at Penn State.

Where he struggles is against more refined interior pass rushers. He can anchor and hold his own against your typical big power rushers, but small and more technical pass-rush moves smoke him. His run blocking is fine, but not spectacular. He could start at some point, although his best path seems to be as a swing interior lineman as opposed to an every-down starter,

Steelers sixth-round center target: Kingsley Eguakun

I have a soft spot for Kingsley Eguakun. He is lacking in most areas as a prospect. His length is average and his athleticism is poor. As for his pass blocking, it is a major area of weakness, as he lacks the skills to handle effective rushers and can lose leverage in power situations.

Where he is effective is as a run blocker. He is your throwback nasty run-blocking center that can push the pile forward. You likely don’t want him becoming the every-down starter because of his struggles, but he should become a fine backup who thrives on run plays.

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The Steelers need a center in a bad way this year, and they have quite a few options to look at in this draft. They could also land a starter later than many would expect, even if that player's ceiling is limited. This team will draft a new center at some point, and these seem like logical players to target per round.