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The Steelers plan at center worked with the drafting of Zach Frazier

The Steelers faced a tough decision as the time ticked off the clock during the 20th pick in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Detroit, Michigan: Would they go with a player from another position who would address a major need and also represent fantastic draft value or would they select a center?

Clearly, center was a major position of need for Pittsburgh, just like offensive tackle, receiver and even cornerback, but you don’t draft a center in the first round, do you? You can, and it works more often than not, actually. But, man, so many other prospects were sitting there at 20 who may not have been around by the 19th pick of the second round (51st, overall).

The Steelers had every center available to them, including the Big 3–Graham Barton, Jackson Powers-Johnson and Zach Frazier–but they also had every single cornerback prospect sitting there for the taking.

And what about Troy Fautanu, the highly-rated offensive tackle from Washington? He may have been the perfect marriage of need and draft value.

Pittsburgh selected Fautanu with the 20th pick of the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

After that, it was just a matter of sitting and waiting. There was also a lot of hoping and praying taking place. Surely, Barton would be gone by the end of the first round, and he didn’t even make it that far thanks to the Buccaneers drafting him at 26.

As for the other two? Pittsburgh had all day on Friday to sit, wait, hope and pray that either Powers-Johnson and/or Frazier would still be there at pick 51. Would general manager Omar Khan try and move up in the second round to increase his odds of adding a center? Did he make some calls as the hours rolled by on Friday afternoon? Heck, for that matter, was center as big of a priority as the media and fans were suggesting? If you insisted that wide receiver was an even bigger need than center, you could have made a compelling case for that. Also, what about those internal options at center that Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin spoke about in the lead-up to the draft? Was Nate Herbig an option? How about guard James Daniels? What about Spencer Anderson, the versatile seventh-round pick from a year earlier?

The Raiders selected Powers-Johnson with the 12th pick of the second round on Friday night (44th, overall), and it was just a matter of waiting out six more teams.

The Steelers survived, and Frazier was the selection at 51.

The plan worked. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure if that was the plan, but there had to be some sort of plan, no? The team cut Mason Cole weeks earlier and signed nobody to play the position. It’s doubtful that the Steelers would have gone into Day 3 without drafting a center, but we’ll never have to find out thanks to how things unfolded in the second round on Day 2.

It’s hard not to like Frazier. He started 46 games at West Virginia–including 38 at center over his final three seasons. He was a wrestling star in high school, winning four-straight heavyweight state championships for Fairmont Senior High School in Fairmont, West Virginia. He was voted a First-team All-Big 12 in 2023 as both a player AND for his academics.

You throw in the story of Frazier dragging himself off the field after breaking his leg against Baylor in the final game of the 2023 regular season (he didn’t want to cost his team a timeout), and it’s easy to see who is going to win the 2024 George Pickens Award for the training camp darling.

Frazier is going to start sooner rather than later, no? I mean, if Kendrick Green won the starting center job in his first training camp, Frazier has to be the odds-on favorite to beat out…nobody this summer. OK, I suppose Herbig is still in the running, but you don’t draft a center in the second round if you don’t have huge plans for him right out of the gate.

We’ll see how it all shakes out, but kudos to the Steelers for sticking to their guns and not drafting a center in the first round. It would have been hard to blame them if they did–and it probably would have worked out in the long run. Instead, they addressed two major needs along the offensive line, and they did so by adding a couple of legit studs.

To sum up the first two rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft: The Steelers had their cake, and they ate it, too.



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