The Pittsburgh Steelers are obviously set to have Mason Cole as their starting center in 2023 but as of early July, it’s really hard to guess who will be the team’s primary backup behind him will be once Week 1 rolls around. On this first Sunday of July, it’s time to look at the Steelers’ backup center candidates.
Kendrick Green – As far as NFL experience at the center position goes, Green, who was selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Illinois, has the most snaps with 975 at the position. All those snaps came during his 2021 rookie season, however, and as a whole, they weren’t great. In fact, Green didn’t play a single snap for the Steelers in 2022 as he was a healthy inactive for all 17 regular season games. He was even behind J.C. Hassenauer on the depth chart last season.
Even in college at Illinois, Green wasn’t primarily a center as he logged all of 326 snaps at the position over a span of just six games. With the summer of 2023 now upon us, Green is not considered a lock to even make the Steeler’s 53-man roster come Week 1. If he does, however, it would likely be as the Steelers backup center behind Cole.
James Daniels – After Green, Daniels, the Steelers’ starting right guard, has the most NFL experience at the center position. To date, the sixth-year Daniels has played 508 NFL snaps at the center position with his last such playing time at the position coming as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2019. Daniels, however, did log quite a bit of playing time at the center position in college at Iowa, with 1,486 snaps in total in his final two seasons there.
Obviously, should Daniels be the Steelers’ next man up at center in 2023, it would require him sliding over from his starting right guard spot and that would require a backup coming off the bench to fill in at his original position.
Ryan McCollum – Next up on our list when it comes to NFL experience at the center position is McCollum, who spent the entire 2022 season on the Steelers practice squad. To date, McCollum, who entered the NFL in 2021 with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, has logged 100 NFL snaps at the center position. He did so as a rookie in 2021 with the Detroit Lions. Those snaps came in four total games in which he started just one of them. While McCollum did log 847 total snaps at center in college, he was essentially just a one-year starter at Texas A&M at that position.
Nate Herbig – The Steelers signed Herbig as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason and while he has logged some center snaps in the NFL to date, there’s not much to talk about. In fact, Herbig has played just 49 snaps in the NFL at the center position to date with 47 of those coming last season as a member of the New York Jets.
As far as Herbig’s college career goes, he didn’t log any center snaps in his three seasons at Stanford. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine him being groomed to be the Steelers’ backup center for the 2023 season. He would likely be an emergency option only.
Isaac Seumalo – Like Herbig, Seumalo has signed as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason. He’s now slated to be the team’s starting left guard. Even so, Seumalo does have limited center experience in the NFL with 34 snaps in total at the position as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. However, 32 of those 34 snaps at the center came back in 2017. For whatever it’s worth, it can be noted that Seumalo did play snaps at center in college at Oregon State. It’s hard to get an accurate count of those snaps at that position, however, due to record keeping.
Like Daniels, a move from guard to center during a game would require a player coming off the bench to take over his guard spot. In summation, Seumalo being used at center with the Steelers would likely only happen in an emergency situation.
Spencer Anderson – Last on this list of center-capable players is Anderson, the Steelers’ second of two seventh-round draft picks in 2023. In college at Maryland, Anderson did play up and down the offensive line. Even so, he only logged 382 total snaps at the center position over the span of those five seasons there. That’s just slightly more snaps than Green played at center during his college career.
To sum up this rundown of capable backup centers for the Steelers ahead of the team’s training camp getting underway in late July, it’s not an impressive list of options overall. Because of that, I fully expect that the Steelers will keep their eyes open when it comes to additional options at the position all the way up to Week 1