Wanted to take a quick moment to provide some color on Fernando Velasco, the offensive lineman brought in by the Steelers in light of the Pouncey injury. I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be a good pickup for the team.
If his collegiate pedigree is any indication, Velasco should be a good fit for the Steelers, having played his college ball at Georgia. The Steelers have had good luck with Georgia players in the past including Hines Ward, Kendrell Bell and, most recently, Jarvis Jones.
An undrafted free agent, Velasco was signed by the Titans in 2008 and spent the first two years on the practice squad before making the active roster the last three consecutive years. While on the active roster, he appeared in 48 games including 16 as a full-time starter in 2012. He has good positional flexibility as he played three of those games at left guard and the other thirteen at center. He was subsequently released by the Titans this offseason when they brought in Rod Turner, Chance Warmack and Andy Levitre.
Velasco is fairly big for a center at 6’3” 318lbs,which bodes well for him in a division that features the likes of Haloti Ngata and Geno Atkins. He’s probably not as mobile as Pouncey (few centers are) but he’s fairly athletic and does move well for a lineman his size.
You’re not going to find the next Mike Webster or Dermonti Dawson in the free agent market, but I think the Steelers could have done a heck of a lot worse than this. The fact that he was cut by Tennessee isn’t the worst thing in the world as Turner and Levitre are high quality veterans and Warmack has multi-year Pro Bowl potential. A lot of NFL lineman would get beat out by that trio.
The fact that he can play both guard and center gives the Steelers two players (Beachum) on the roster that can play both positions. I expect they will audition both for the center role, with the loser of that battle being the top alternate at guard.