Not every Illinois football player started out at the position they finished, and Alex Pihlstrom is a shining example of this.
Pihlstrom joined the Illini program as a walk-on. He started his career in Champaign as a tight end but would eventually shift over to the offensive line his junior year. He would make a couple of starts at guard in 2020, and then in his final two seasons with the Orange and Blue, Pihlstrom would become our center.
It wasn’t an accolade ladened Illinois career for Pihlstrom. He did have a great senior year, though. He would earn All-Big Ten second-team honors and started every game for the Illini.
Center is not exactly a premier position in the NFL, so Pihlstrom went undrafted. But the New Orleans Saints did like what they saw out of him in workouts, so after the draft, they jumped on the chance to sign the experienced offensive lineman.
New Orleans Saints depth chart projection – Alex Pihlstrom
The Saints were in desperate need of some center help. Right now, there are only two projected centers on the roster. Pihlstrom is projected as the second-string center. The starter entering the season looks to be Erik McCoy.
Pihlstrom might have a chance to make some waves with the Saints. McCoy has missed multiple games each of the past two seasons, and this could open the door for consistent play from Pihlstrom. I think the bad play from the New Orleans offensive line could play a role in a change at the top too.
In 2022, the Saints had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. They ranked No. 26 in both pass and run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. This franchise needs help upfront, and Pihlstrom could provide that boost.
New Orleans also released former backup Billy Brice less than two weeks ago. This says to me that they are comfortable with Pihlstrom at center. I think Pihlstrom sees snaps in 2023. If there is an injury, he is ready to fill in. Pihlstrom gives the Saints some quality depth.