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Why getting the Center position fixed this offseason is absolutely critical for the Steelers

Ray Mansfield…

… Mike Webster…

… Dermonti Dawson…

… Jeff Hartings…

… Maurkice Pouncey…

… Mason Cole.

Which one of these names is NOT like the rest? Hopefully you’ve already pointed that person out before you finished this sentence.

Do you want to know how you did it so fast? Because you, my dear friend, are a discerning Steelers fan. One with high expectations for a team steeped in Super Bowl tradition and excellence, a team with an unmatched legacy across the sport (grabs cup and sips tea with pinky up).

Oh yes, you. The Yinzer who is THE embodiment and spirit of the great, beloved Pittsburgh Steelers when you are at Acrisure Stadium. Head to toe in Black and Gold, facepaint and all, because that’s how REAL Steelers fans roll, right? The Super Steelers fan that stands up, waving your double-fisted Terrible Towels around, encouraging everyone else to do the same, insisting everyone stand up, raise their IC Light to the sky right as the JumboTron goes black, and then leading everyone into the most soulful, heartfelt, off-note, half-drunk intro to Ren~’hiccup’~Renegade that Wanna B’s down the street would be proud of.

Yes, you know your Steelers. You know all about the history of every player to don the Black and Gold. And what you know about your Steelers is that they have had great Centers play for the Black and Gold. And not just great Centers, but All-Pro, Hall-of-Fame players. And they’ve had SEVERAL of them over the years.

You could call it, a “lineage” of Centers…

… or perhaps, “legacy”…

… but the most apt would be this: STANDARD. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a standard of excellence at the Center position. Anyone, player or fan, can look back at the history of the team and FEEL the weight of success that is carried by that position. It is why the Steelers value the position so much, when it seems that other teams and the League in general, has devalued them.

But there is something glaringly wrong with the “Standard” lately, as it pertains to Center play. The commitment to ensuring excellence at the Center position has been missing for the last couple of years. Whether it was Kendrick Green, BJ Finney, JC Hassenauer, or most recently, Mason Cole, the play from the position has been rather, well… AVERAGE.

Or maybe it wasn’t their fault at all. Maybe we should pull a Cartman from South Park and just…

… wait for it…

Blame Canada.

It almost feels like a Rick Roll at this point. The moment where you can insert any type of blame for Steelers Offensive ineptitude on former Steelers OC Matt Canada, and try to find the most creative way to throw it at some unsuspecting fool.

Well, wherever you may chose to lay the blame for the lack of quality Center play over the last couple years, the Steelers have most definitively set a course this offseason to make a major upgrade to the position. Roy Countryman and Jeff Hartman were having this discussion two weeks ago on the Let’s Ride podcast, where Roy highlighted the Center as the position he felt most needing an upgrade on the Steelers roster.

I happen to not only agree with Roy, but insist that I throw more emphasis on WHY getting this position right, THIS YEAR, is so critical for the Steelers. Not just is it critical for any type of short term success of rebuilding the team, but also critical for the long term success of being able to maintain a Championship level roster for a dynasty-type of run that the Steelers fans have become accustomed to, you know, being the most Super Bowl/Playoff privileged fans in all of the NFL, and all that.

There seems to be a refreshing sense of urgency from the Pittsburgh front office to get the offense fixed, and do it quickly. The Steelers braintrust moved with ‘never-seen-in-the-Colbert-era’ speed when they quickly snapped up Arthur Smith as the team’s next Offensive Coordinator. Not just that, the team broke trend when they not only kept most of the Offensive coaching roster intact from Canada’s regime, but also brought in coaches from outside the organization to help on that side of the ball, negating the narrative that had been growing about the small size of Pittsburgh’s coaching roster being it’s detriment to success.

With an offense as young as it is, installing a brand new offense and language, and trying to give Kenny Pickett every opportunity to succeed, it’s simply going to take more heads in the room to get it all put together on the Offensive side of the ball.

Would anyone dare to say that the Defense has this same issue of age, schematic change, and learning curve that they need more coaches?

Of course not.

Well, let me rephrase that slightly…

… Age. Age IS an issue…

… Age is definitely an issue, especially when looking at the ages of Cam Heyward, TJ Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Their ages (and the size of their contracts) put a LOT more urgency into what is happening on the other side of the ball.

The team is at a crossroads of having a Championship caliber Defense with a YUGE question mark on Offense. Get the question mark fixed and fixed quickly, and then the sky is the limit for a couple years. Miss it, and you’ve wasted so much P-P-P-P-Potential (I see you over there Jeff Hartman), not to mention waste the prime years of the player who will, most likely, end up going down as the greatest Steelers Linebacker ever, Mr. Trent Jordan Watt.

So, it is critical. It is absolutely critical that the next starting Center for the Pittsburgh Steelers to play up to the Standard set by those who came before him. It can not only reverse a recent trend of average Center play for an average offense, and more importantly, keep from wasting the prime of some future Hall of Honor Museum entrants, but it can also set a new but familiar path back to what it means to play to the ‘Standard’.

If we talk about the ‘Standard’ so much as fans have lately, and what it means, and how there are whispers of “what is the Standard, anymore?” as if it is becoming a legend lost in time, then setting the Standard once again means RE-establishing dominant, perrenial Pro Bowl… nay, All Pro… nay… HALL OF FAME caliber play at the Center position.

The pressure will definitely be ramped up for this new Man of Steel. New guy on a new team, learning a new offense, with a new QB’s hands to get used to, uh, “back there.”

New protection audibles, faking hard snap counts, and everyone will have been reminding him incessantly all offseason, into Voluntary Work Outs, AND into Mini Camp, about who he gets to go up against ALL Camp long: none other than one of the last TRUE bastions of what the STEELER WAY is, Cam Heyward.

It is a weighty baton to carry, and hopefully, whoever it ends up being, is ready for the challenge. Hopefully he is the next shining example of the Steelers ‘Standard’.


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