Ranking the best remaining center targets for Steelers in free agency

Pittsburgh desperately needs a center, but the options in free agency are running dry.

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins
New York Giants v Miami Dolphins / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

When the 2024 free agency period opened up, many Steelers fans thought the first order of business for Pittsburgh would be to find a starting center. Omar Khan has made a flurry of roster moves so far -- including trading away Kenny Pickett and trading for Justin Fields -- but adding a center has not been among them.

As it stands, center is looking like the weakest position on the roster. The one option they did have on the team, Mason Cole, was released early in the offseason.

Since the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, the center position has been a major issue for Pittsburgh, and many are hoping the team looks to address the position early in the 2024 NFL Draft. By doing so, however, the Steelers would miss out on an uber-talented offensive tackle and wide receiver class (which are both big needs for Pittsburgh).

Former Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry and Aaron Brewer were some of the best center on the free agent market, but they have long since been snatched up. Here are the four best remaining centers the Steelers could add to their roster for the 2024 season.

1. Connor Williams, MIA

I am a big fan of Connor Williams. The former Texas product has tremendous mobility for a center that makes him perfect for a wide zone offense (much like what Arthur Smith intends to run in Pittsburgh in 2024). At 6'5'' and 312 pounds, Williams has a great frame for the position and has been remarkable when on the field over the past two seasons.

Unfortunately, Williams has a scary injury history and he is recovering from an ACL tear. There's no guarantee that Williams will be ready for the start of the season, and some are worried about nerve damage to his knee.

If he can make a full recovery, Williams could prove to be one of the best centers in the game, and he will be just 27 years old for the 2024 season. Even with his questionable injury history, he's easily the best remaining center on the free agent market and he would be a perfect scheme fit in Pittsburgh.

2. Nick Gates, WAS

In many ways, Nick Gates feels like Mason Cole-plus. At over 6'5'' and 312 pounds, Gates is tall for a center, which impacts his center of gravity. As a result, he has been a quality run blocker but has struggled in pass protection at times.

Gates has also been a starter off and on over the course of his five-year career. His biggest usage came all the way back in 2020 when he started all 16 games for the New York Giants. For Washington last season, Gates started 10 of 13 games he dressed for and had a quality season.

At worst, Gates would give the Steelers a stop-gap option at center to cover their bases, and he would be an upgrade over what the team has had in Mason Cole.

3. Connor McGovern, NYJ

From Connor Williams to Connor McGovern, there's a significant drop in the quality of the player you are getting. Williams, if healthy, could be a long-term center and one of the better players in the league at his position. McGovern, on the other hand, is just a stop-gap option and the Steelers would be hoping for average center play.

McGovern (not to be confused with former Cowboys and current Bills' guard Connor McGovern) played three seasons in Denver before spending the last four seasons with the New York Jets.

This is a low-end option, as McGovern is coming off the worst season of his career and will be 31 years old for the 2024 season.

4. Sam Mustipher, BAL

Sam Mustipher is an interesting free-agent center. He has started 42 of 52 NFL games in five seasons (40 starts came with the Bears from 2020 to 2022). Last year with the Ravens, Mustipher was only called on for 2 starts and 202 offensive snaps, but his performance was respectable.

Just don't look at his athletic traits. Coming out of Notre Dame in 2019, Mustifer tested as an 8th percentile athlete, according to Relative Athletic Score -- posting a dismal 1.96 10-yard split and sluggish 8.25 3-cone drill. Still, his 6'2'', 332-pound frame makes it hard to move off the ball. This would be a respectable depth signing.