Could John Malecki Be The Week Two Starting Center?
By Matthew Marczi
If Maurkice Pouncey is able to play again this year—which seems highly unlikely at this point—the Pittsburgh Steelers will be forced to carry him on the roster, and will have to cut at another position in order to bring in another offensive lineman.
The likely cut would have been inside linebacker Terence Garvin, but with the news that Larry Foote will also likely miss the rest of the season, that is unlikely to happen. So perhaps safety DaMon Cromartie-Smith would be the one to get his walking papers.
Right now, however, it looks as though Pouncey is probably headed to the season-ending injured reserve after right guard David DeCastro inadvertently threw a cut block directly into the center’s right knee, which resulted in an injury to both the ACL and the MCL of the fourth-year veteran.
Make no mistake, a roster move will be made along the offensive line, and if I am correct, that will mean the return of John Malecki. Malecki, who seemed to have a strong preseason, made the final roster, but was released after the Steelers claimed center Cody Wallace from the San Francisco 49ers. The team liked the fact that Wallace was bigger and a pure center, a position that Malecki only learned after coming into the league.
Wallace, however, was inactive for this game, which left super-sub Kelvin Beachum as the backup center, who had to play the rest of the 56 minutes remaining in the game from the time of Pouncey’s injury. He had a few shaky snaps, which impacted a play or two throughout the course of the game.
If the Steelers are not yet comfortable with Wallace’s knowledge of the offense to even dress him over Guy Whimper, then it would make a great deal of sense to bring back Malecki, and possibly even start him at center, which would allow Beachum to return to the sixth lineman role that he was playing before the injury as an eligible tight end.
The knocks on Malecki were that his arms are too short and he lacks ideal strength—criticisms that also applied to Doug Legursky—but neither of those seemed to hamper his performance much during the preseason, as he was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the team’s second-highest graded player on offense, behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Of course, bringing Malecki back by no means that he will be starting, or even dressing. The Steelers firmly believe that Kelvin Beachum is their sixth-best offensive lineman—at least—and they also believe that he can play every position, so it would make a lot of sense for him to be inserted at center, even though he has very little experience there.
However, it would also make a great deal of sense to start either Wallace or Malecki as well, who are more comfortable at the center position than Beachum, as it would allow Beachum to continue to do the other things that he has been doing, including playing tight end, which is another position decimated by injuries.
I would not be surprised if Malecki is re-signed at some point this week, and it would not even surprise me if he is starting in Week Two. Of course, the team has other options outside of the organization, but they must bring somebody in. Even if they call up a player from the practice squad, they still must add a lineman to have 10 for practice purposes.