Steelers must have a 'Plan B' if they miss out on the top 3 centers

Who could the Steelers turn to if they miss out on the top three centers in the NFL Draft?
Michigan v Penn State
Michigan v Penn State / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Since the beginning of the offseason, Steelers fans have been adamant about their team improving the center position. After experimenting with Kendrick Geen and Mason Cole since the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh is still looking for an anchor in the middle of their offensive line.

For this reason, most fans are on board with the Steelers targeting center early in the draft, and this is a position that appears to be high on Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan's draft radar. Pittsburgh hosted the consensus top three centers for pre-draft visits, and they clearly have interest in Graham Barton, Jackson Powers-Johnson, and Zach Frazier.

But what happens if the top three centers get wiped out early?

Based on their pre-draft interests, there's a good chance the Steelers could go with an offensive tackle in Round 1. If this happens and they aren't able to move back up in the second round, all three of Barton, Powers-Johnson, and Frazier could be off the board. Pittsburgh needs a backup plan.

What is the Steelers' backup plan at center?

Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan have mentioned Nate Herbig as a possible option at the center position. However, Herbig is a guard by trade, and it's unlikely he will make a successful transition in his sixth NFL season.

So what is the plan if the Steelers miss out on the best center prospects in the first two rounds of the draft?

Unfortunately, there aren't many other players who project as plug-and-play centers beyond Round 2. Perhaps Georgia's Sedrick Van Pran-Granger would be an option with one of their third-round picks, but most draft experts have a notable talent gap between Frazier and Van Pran-Granger.

After meeting with the Georgia product twice during the offseason, he may be the consolation prize if they miss out on the top three centers. However, if Pittsburgh decides to go a different route, there are a few other centers they could target.

Hunter Nourzad is one name that comes to mind and makes sense for a number of reasons. Nourzad, a former Cornell transfer, played his 2023 season at Penn State. At 6 3 1/8'' and 317 lbs with 33 1/8'' arms and 10 3/4'' hands, he's almost identical in stature to West Virginia's Zach Frazier.

Nourzad is also a similar athlete who can move pretty well in space and knows how to take advantage of his leverage. Surprisingly, Nourzad's PFF grades fell just shy of Frazier's during 2023, but it's worth noting that he played in the Big 10 Conference.

Already 24 years old, Nourzad is one of the oldest players in the 2024 NFL Draft, but age doesn't matter much when it comes to the offensive line. The Steelers clearly have interest as he was the only other center they used a Top 30 visit to meet with outside of Barton, Powers-Johnson, and Frazier. Nourzad projects as a good scheme fit in Arthur Smith's offense thanks to his impressive film on wide zone runs.

Other mid-to-late round centers who could be considered as backup plans include Arkansas' Beaux Limmer and Wisconsin's Tanor Bortolini. The Steelers could also go with another conversion project like South Dakota State's Mason McCormick (whom they met with for a Top 30 pre-draft visit).

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not guaranteed to land one of the top three centers in the first two rounds, and they will have a 'Plan B' in the 2024 NFL Draft. Hunter Nourzad seems like a safe bet to be their fallback option in the middle of the draft.