Steelers Work Out Free Agent Center, a ‘Smart, Self-Starter’

Zach Shackelford

Tim Warner/Getty Images Sam Ehlinger of the Texas Longhorns throws a pass as Zach Shackelford protects against the San Jose State Spartans on September 9, 2017.

On Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers worked out free agent center Zach Shackelford, after the team also had him in for a tryout on December 3rd. The Steelers didn’t sign him two weeks ago, but things might be different this time around, as Pittsburgh is shorthanded at guard—so shorthanded that backup center J.C. Hassenauer might be the starter at left guard on Monday night vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

Keep in mind that Hassenauer went in at left guard after both Matt Feiler (pectotal) and Kevin Dotson (shoulder) suffered injuries during last Sunday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. Feiler has since been placed on injured reserve, so he isn’t eligible to play again until the postseason, while Dotson hasn’t practiced this week, so he’s unlikely to be available on Monday night.

The Steelers probably don’t want to play Hassenauer at left guard, because if he gets injured playing guard there’s no readily available backup for starting center Maurkice Pouncey. But Pittsburgh doesn’t have many more options on the interior of its offensive line.

On Monday, the Steelers grabbed offensive guard Danny Isidora (pronounced “Is-a-DOOR-a”) off the practice squad of the Kansas City Chiefs, so he’s an option too, yet Isidora has appeared in only one game this season, and it would be asking a lot of him to come in and start after being with the team for just a week.

The Steelers could also conceivably turn to 2019 seventh-round pick Derwin Gray, except Gray’s background is as a tackle, much like the three offensive linemen on the team’s practice squad: Anthony Coyle (Fordham); Brandon Walton (Florida Atlantic); and Jarron Jones (Notre Dame), the latter of whom somehow managed to hold onto his spot on the practice squad despite getting arrested and charged with aggravated assault, strangulation and simple assault in early October.

About Center Zach Shackelford

As for Shackelford (6-foot-4, 305 pounds), he’s a rookie who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft but failed to make Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster coming out of training camp.

He started 40 of the 43 games he played at the University of Texas, where he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2019 and served as a team captain.

“Shackelford is as smart of an offensive lineman as I’ve been around,” said Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman earlier this year. “He made all the calls for our offensive line. He’s another guy that comes from a great home life. His dad is a military chaplain, and he grew up with a lot of structure and discipline. He’s a self-starter who is extremely strong and powerful, and just really knows how to play to his strengths.”

Congratulations Ohio State Grad Ryan Shazier

On Friday, former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier announced on Twitter that he has graduated from Ohio State University.

It was three months ago that the former Steelers first-round pick announced his retirement from football, during which time he has been completing his final graduation requirements.

Shazier suffered a spinal contusion in a December 2017 game against the Cincinnati Bengals that left him temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, but he is now able to walk unassisted.

Three weeks ago he announced the launch of the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation, which aims to provide support and resources for spinal cord injury (SCI) patients and their families.

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