Updated: Mar 14, 2021
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The Steelers signed B.J. Finney to a one-year deal on Friday and they signed J.C. Hasenauer to a one-year deal four days earlier as well. The Steelers have a big void to fill at center with Maurkice Pouncey retiring last month, and Finney and Hasenauer are good depth players at the position.
I don't think the Steelers plan on having Finney as their starting center heading into the 2021 season, at least that's what I hope. It would be a massive mistake to have Finney as the starter. Finney is better suited as a guard than center, to begin with, and he wasn't all that impressive when he filled in for Pouncey in 2019.
Unless the Steelers select one of the three top centers in this year's draft -- Landon Dickerson of Alabama, Creed Humphrey of Oklahoma and Josh Myers of Ohio State -- there's really not a plug-and-play option in later rounds. And I expect the Steelers to go offensive tackle and running back in the first two rounds and the centers listed above all will likely be off the board by the third round.
That's why I think the Steelers should pay a decent amount for a center in free agency. The Steelers currently have around $5 million in salary-cap space, which isn't much, but they could free up some cap space via restructures, contract extensions, cuts, or cap casualties. Stephon Tuitt and Chris Boswell are candidates to have their contracts restructured and Steven Nelson could have his contracts extended to create cap space.
The Steelers could also save $4 million by cutting Vince Williams, or he could take a pay cut, and Joe Haden I think could receive a new contract at a lower rate. I would be surprised to see Haden as a cap casualty. So, the Steelers have options to free up some money and go after a center in free agency.
Nick Martin and Ted Karras are two centers that I think the Steelers should have their eye on at center in free agency. They should come at a reasonable price also.
Martin, 27, is the younger brother of Cowboys guard Zack Martin and was a second-round pick by the Texans in 2016. On Sept.10, 2019, Martin signed a three-year, $33 million contract extension with the Texans, $18.5 million of it was guaranteed. He didn't complete his deal with Houston, however, as he was released by the team last week. The Texans saved $6.2 million in cap space by parting ways with Martin. The former second-round pick started 62 out of 62 games at center with Houston.
Karras turns 28 tomorrow and was a sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2016. Karras was a backup in New England up until becoming a starter in 2019 when he started 15 games in place of David Andrews, who missed the entire season because of being diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. Karras signed a one-year contract with the Dolphins last March and started 16 games for Miami this past season at center. The Dolphins have $33 million in cap space, so they might bring Karras back unless they are looking for an upgrade at the position with signing Corey Linsley or the aforementioned Andrews, as they are the top two free-agent centers.