Can Kendrick Green Be Steelers' Potential Unsung Hero?

Photo: Caitlyn Epes/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have found their next best center. Kendrick Green will be tasked with carrying the mantle of a long history of Steelers centers, known for their nasty, tough, and nearly impenetrable play. 

The Steelers waited longer than expected to select Green in the third round. Offensive line talent was a need for Pittsburgh entering the draft. After selecting Najee Harris in the first round and Pat Freiermuth in the second round, the Steelers drafted Green; they had not used a selection on a center that early in the draft since Maurkice Pouncey in 2010. Pouncey, who solidified his presence at the heart of the offensive line for the better part of a decade, announced his retirement earlier this year. Green, who requested Pouncey’s No. 53, has big shoes to fill; Pouncey was the latest iteration of the Steelers’ impressive lineage at the position.

Green, who made four starts at center in college while spending the bulk of his time playing guard, will first have to win the starting battle. He’ll be competing alongside J.C. Hassenauer, who, after signing with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spent a year in the Alliance of American Football before joining the Steelers in 2019, and B.J. Finney, who’s back in Pittsburgh after bouncing around the league in 2020. If the Steelers want to better establish a stronger rushing attack, it’ll start at center and it would likely start with Green.

The Steelers don’t need to rush one of their newest, greenest players into a starting role, especially a player with only a handful of starts at the position; but Green has already garnered a lot of attention early in offseason training and that will only increase as he continues through minicamp. 

Green’s inexperience starting doesn’t deter Pittsburgh either. In its storied center history, there have been other highly productive centers with little to no starts prior to their pro careers. Dermontti Dawson, a Hall of Fame center (and depending on who you ask, one of, if not the best to ever play the position), had not taken live snaps at center at the University of Kentucky and he developed into an uber-productive starter. The Steelers’ plan is to have Green starting at the position. 

“We are looking at him at center, but he is more than capable of playing all three positions equally well,” new Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said after Green’s selection, via ESPN. “I’m just excited about his position flexibility and all that he can do.”

Green’s strong; the Steelers know this. He’s athletic, mobile, blocks well particularly for the run, and has the high-energy, aggressive mentality to succeed at the position. The Draft Network scouted his ideal role as a developmental center, harking on some of the inexperience Green would need to overcome to be a starter on Day 1.

“Green has the lateral mobility and functional athleticism to develop and continue to work with at the pro level—his potential as a recent position swap should not be ignored. That said, Green is understandably rough around the edges with the finer points of strike placement, feel for scraping defenders, angles when climbing to the second level, and his footwork and base; there are too many reps in which Green finds himself on the ground. But viewing him through the scope of a player who is still new to the position, the flashes of leverage at the point of attack and mobility, particularly at center, make him a worthwhile flier later in the draft.”

If Green is able to win the starting battle and get more comfortable through the offseason, he can help the Steelers establish themselves better out of the backfield. There will be some obvious bumps in the road, getting acclimated to NFL speed and power takes time, even for a player who already exhibits those qualities. Green is already sought to be Pittsburgh’s long-term answer at center. He can put a stamp on his career with a productive rookie season. He’s already shown a willingness and hunger to learn; with expectations tempered because of the onboarding process, Green can play a vital role in the Steelers’ success up front and in the run game.