Steelers' position-by-position look: Center

PITTSBURGH -- This is the seventh in a series in which I will examine every position relative to the 2013 season -- and take a look ahead.


2014 free agents: Fernando Velasco and Cody Wallace.

The good: The Steelers could not have asked for more from Velasco, whom they signed after Maurkice Pouncey went down in the opener with a season-ending knee injury. The former Titan picked up the offense fast enough to start the second game of the season and stabilize center following the loss of Pouncey. The Steelers were similarly fortunate when Velasco went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon in the Steelers' Thanksgiving night loss in Baltimore. Cody Wallace started the final four games and showed a nasty streak that belied his affable personality.

The bad: Pouncey lasted just eight snaps before right guard David DeCastro crumpled his right leg while trying to execute a cut block, and he tore several ligaments, including his ACL. As well as Velasco and Wallace filled in, the loss of Pouncey cost the Steelers their best offensive lineman as well as one of their captains.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Pouncey's cap hit is just over $5.5 million but that will change if the Steelers, as expected, sign the 2010 first-round pick to a new contract. The Steelers sign core players before they reach the final year of their contract, and Pouncey is unquestionably a lynchpin up front. The only concern with the three-time Pro Bowler is his injury history, which is why the Steelers will also try to re-sign Velasco and Wallace. Velasco probably would have gotten a chance to start somewhere else but his best play may be to re-sign with the Steelers for one year, show teams he is healthy and then seek a better opportunity.

Draft priority: None. Pouncey is entrenched at center and there is no need for the Steelers to entertain thoughts of adding one to the roster via the draft.