Last year was a season of growing pains for second-year center J.C. Hassenauer. If anything can be said, he definitely earned his 1-year-contract extension.
Despite the extension and playing in 303 offensive snaps at center last season, this offseason has presented some obstacles in his path to becoming the team's no. 1 center. In addition to bringing B.J Finney back into the fold, the Pittsburgh Steelers used their third-round pick in this year's NFL Draft on standout center Kendrick Green.
With both these additions, Hassenauer's ambitions of starting this upcoming season may have taken a big hit. Like Finney, Hassenauer has the position versatility to play guard, a position that has become vulnerable depthwise following the release of All-Pro interior lineman David DeCastro.
Even with this, Hassenauer had his fair share of struggles in the trenches, which in many ways reflected the team's offensive line. Last season, he finished with an overall grade of 57.7, according to Pro Football Focus, and accounted for five penalties with no sacks allowed. Most admirably, his willingness to perform under difficult circumstances — notably against the Baltimore Ravens on December 2, 2020, was acknowledged by head coach Mike Tomlin after a slew of injuries forced Hassenauer to start on short notice.
“I can’t say enough about the efforts of J.C., playing center for us at every snap on short notice and really doing a good job, particularly from an assignment standpoint, and not only his but ours in terms of communicating with others.”
With the team transitioning to a zone blocking scheme under offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the starting position at center would likely be more suited for Green, who exceled in this scheme at Illinois. During the season, Hassenauer's presence may prove to be valuable as they head into their first ever 17-game-season. As the injuries pile up, one can count that Hassenauer will be relied upon to help the team.