Will Fernando Velasco Be Up To Speed In Time To Start Next Week?

By Matthew Marczi

With Monday’s confirmation that Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury after being placed on injured reserve, the immediate question now is this: who is playing center on Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Steelers signed center/guard Fernando Velasco yesterday, who started all 16 games last year for the Tennessee Titans, and was regarded as perhaps the best center currently available on the market.

However, the question is whether or not Velasco will be up to speed on the offense in time, as the next game is now just a week away.

After the initial 53-man roster was set, the Steelers chose to sign center Cody Wallace off waivers to replace John Malecki. However, when game time came around and the weekly inactives were announced, Wallace’s name was on that list, meaning the reserves for the loss against the Tennessee Titans were Kelvin Beachum and Guy Whimper.

The fact that Wallace was inactive could mean one of two things: either the Steelers are really satisfied with Beachum’s ability to play center (which he was of course forced to do for nearly the entire game), or the Steelers were unimpressed with Wallace’s ability to quickly pick up the offense to even serve as a backup.

Both of these possibilities, one would think, point to the likelihood of Beachum being the starting center for at least one week as Velasco gets up to speed. If Wallace was not up on the offense enough to even serve as a backup, it is a lot to ask of Velasco to learn the offense and start in just seven days.

Of course, Velasco has a great deal more experience than Wallace, which would obviously significantly factor into the equation. Wallace has 18 regular season snaps to his name, while Velasco has 19 starts. One would think that a starter could probably pick up the offense sooner than a career backup.

But what of the other possibility—the possibility that the Steelers truly like Beachum and his potential at center? For what it is worth, Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider came away from the game impressed, suggesting that Beachum’s best position in the NFL may ultimately be as a center.

The Steelers obviously believed in Beachum’s abilities enough at center to make him the primary backup at the position for Week One, so why should they hesitate to start him at center in Week Two? If he is to be the primary backup at every position, then he might as well start for now while Velasco learns the offense.

If he continues to play well at the position, then the Steelers can consider leaving him in there and allowing Velasco to serve as an insurance policy. In his press conference yesterday, head coach Mike Tomlin had the following to say: “as we prepare right now, Beachum is going to be our starting center, and we are in the process of learning what Fernando is capable of in terms of details and learning of assignments, not only him but Cody Wallace as well”.

Will that still hold true come Monday night? Is it just a matter of getting Velasco up to speed, or would the Steelers actually like to see what Beachum can do in a full game with a game plan as the starting center first before injecting a new player into the lineup? And will Beachum’s ability as a tight end play a role in the ultimate decision on a center later on in the season—at least until the tight ends are healthy?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • VaDave

    If Beachum is the long term answer at center, that means we now have two back up centers, and one back up tackle that barely qualifies as an NFL player on the 53. That would make no sense. IMO, as soon as they can get Velasco up to up to speed, in he goes until Pouncey comes back, or he goes down. Did anybody tell him about the friendly fire kids playing to his right?

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Steelers can’t afford to use Beachum at C the entire year and be left with zero depth at the other positions, although I’m sure Beachum would slide over if an injury occurred. As far as the Bengals game, Velasco has way more experience than either Beachum or Wallace, so I say throw him in there. He can’t perform any worse then the unit has so far.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Well said. I was going to say about the same thing.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I understand that DeCastro made a poor play in injuring Pouncey but its annoying to keep hearing people bring it up. I am sure if anyone on this board did something wrong at work he would love to hear his boss everyday remind him of what he did wrong a week ago.

  • steeltown

    Soo we have 3 Centers? No, Beachum is the only capable backup Tackle (and Foster at RT) so as soon as Velasco is up to speed then Velasco should be the Center and hopefully Wallace the backup.. so Beachum can be the swing OT and TE (6th Lineman)

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I get giving Beachum the nod if he played well and earned his spot in the starting lineup. From a depth perspective, I get that he’s next in line. He “deserves” it. But if any injuries occur on the offensive line, you now have to swap out two players instead of one. Say Gilbert goes down in a game. Beachum would have to move to tackle and Velasco to center. It’s either that, or you put “I’m going to make Ben” Whimper in at tackle…and if that happens, you may as well glue Dwyer or Redman to Roethlisberger’s hip.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Velasco and Beachum have to be held out until they can show the coaches what they are capable of. Right now, they are in class counting to three. Hut, Hut, snap, NOOOO. Hut, snap, hut, NOOOOO. Hut Hut Hut, snap, THAT’s It, good job. Now lets work on a quick count….

  • dennisdoubleday

    But DID he play well at center? You could have fooled me; I thought he got abused. Velasco better be ready or we’re looking at another sub-100 rushing day.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I say give Valasco the crash course of Rosetta Stone Haley’s offense and let him start. He’s much more experienced and looks good in the few plays that were posted on the site. Maybe he can help the other guys with this new running system.

  • cencalsteeler

    Start Velasco and if he doesn’t play up to par, put Beachum back in. Trial by error, similar to our running back by committee thing we are doing, Lol!

  • joed32

    Velasco also started 3 games at guard last year. I would dress both him and Wallace and leave Whimper in street clothes. Beachum would play tackle if needed.

  • TxSteeler

    Beachum will probably play center one more game then slide to backup G/T. Velasco is more than capable of filling in for pouncey and will start as soon as he’s ready I’m sure. I am hoping he gets the calls down this week, Velasco has already played against the bungles in the last game of preseason with the titans which would be a plus.