The start of the 2022 NFL league year has begun, and that means the opening of free agency. Before, there was some excitement the Steelers would be able to upgrade their center position with some sort of ease, but just a few hours from the opening of the legal tampering period Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen signed a deal to remain with the team.
Quickly, a top target on the market is gone and the rest of the available names are not nearly up to snuff. So, where do the Steelers go from here? Status quo really didn’t feel like an option until now, but they should be thinking upgrade to improve the offensive line’s point of attack.
The remaining free agents
Ben Jones (UPDATE: reportedly staying with Titans)
Brian Allen (UPDATE: reportedly staying with Rams)
Ted Karras (UPDATE: reportedly signing with Bengals)
None of the available free agents at center will be making it to a Pro Bowl ever again in their careers. Now you don’t necessarily need the best player at his position for every spot on your roster, but the players remaining are just scratching the average tier. The most interesting name which remains is that of Tennessee Titans center, Ben Jones. The problem is Jones will be 33 at the start of next season. What is fortunate, however, is Jones’ ability to play both center and guard. This would allow the Steelers to have flexibility in the NFL Draft and can select someone at either position. Regardless, this team will not be taking a massive step forward at this position via free agency.
The one draft target
The one name I’ve been very high on all offseason is that of Remington award winner, Tyler Linderbaum. The former Iowa Hawkeye is one of the best interior offensive line prospects to come out in the past decade. His tenacity and athleticism will instantly make him one of the better football players in the league. The one knock on him is his frame, standing slightly over 6 feet and 1 inch tall, he is among the most undersized at his position. I really don’t think that will matter in Linderbaum‘s case because his technique and ability is at such a high level. If Linderbaum is available when the Steelers select 20th overall, there will be many fans, including me, pounding the table for his name to be called. This is the only option for a dramatic improvement at this position this offseason.
I have been Kendrick Green’s biggest critic the last few months of the season, and it has continued up until now. The first year player lost his job in embarrassing fashion last season, and really doesn’t pass the eye test as an NFL starter. Sure, anyone has the ability to improve, and with hard work and dedication he could make something of himself. I just can’t see him being anything more than average, and that’s with him taking massive strides during these spring and summer months. If the Steelers go into 2022 with Green atop their center depth chart I think this team will be in trouble. Both the run game and pass protection will remain among the worst in football if nothing changes.
But what do you think? Is the Steelers center position, and free agency in general, already starting to come off the rails? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.