Training camp positional battles: Steelers need a backup center.

Karl Walter

It actually isn't enough to have one of, if not the best players in the entire league anchoring the offensive line. Pittsburgh needs another center.

While most spectators at training camp will be watching the battles for the starting spots, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be more concerned with finding their reserves.

In the past, the team has been able to rely on Doug Legursky to backup not only the guard slots, but also at center behind Maurkice Pouncey. Legursky was never able to lock down any starting positions when they became available, but he was more than serviceable in place of Pouncey. Legursky started in Pouncey's stead in Super Bowl XLV, the loss to the Green Bay Packers.

With Legursky no longer on the team, the Steelers will have to find a new insurance policy. Pouncey hasn't exactly been injury prone during his NFL career, but he has missed important time to repeated ankle and leg injuries. In 2012, having a qualified backup center in Legursky allowed the Steelers to move Pouncey to guard, as the team scrambled to address the loss of Willie Colon to the trainer's table.

Exploring the roster exposes several possible candidate's to fill Legursky's shoes, but none of them invoke the same confidence as their predecessor.

The first name which comes to mind is Kelvin Beachum, one of Pittsburgh's four seventh-round draft picks from 2012. However, the team currently wants to mold him into a guard, contrary to the tackle he was forced to play during the latter half of his rookie season. When Beachum was drafted, the coaches felt he had a "center's intelligence". Unfortunately, many took such a statement to mean they intended to make Beachum a center. They have never implied as such, and are not likely to force too much upon the transitioning Beachum.

The second most likely candidate would be John Malecki, who split time between the scout team and the active roster last season, playing only at guard. He is not a priority choice when setting the pecking order for either guard spot, but he obviously has enough talent to maintain the coaches' interest.

Beyond Beachum and Malecki, the remaining options come in the form of undrafted rookies. The team signed two collegiate centers - Ivory Wade, Baylor (6-4, 313) and Joe Madsen, West Virginia (6-3, 310). The Steelers may even consider one of their guard prospects for a positional change, like Justin Cheadle or Nik Embernate; however, considering the importance the reserve center has carried during Pouncey's tenure, the team will most likely want someone who is already experienced, needing only fine tuning.

Beachum and Malecki will maintain an advantage to win this role entering training camp, but a strong performance by one of the other candidates this preseason could just earn somebody a roster spot.

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