With the 87th of the 2021 NFL Draft (23rd in the third round), the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Illinois offensive lineman Kendrick Green to compete for a starting role along the interior of the O-line. Here is an introduction to the Steelers’ new blocker.
Green has spent his entire football career within the borders of one state. His hometown is Peoria, Illinois, just 90 minutes and 91 miles from the University of Illinois. Green spent his high school career along the line, but starred as a defensive tackle, rather than offensive. He topped 100 tackles in his final season, making 33 tackles for loss and recording 15 sacks as his team won a state championship. During his H.S. career, Green was an all-state selection by several outlets.
Green was initially recruited as a defensive tackle, where he was rated as a three-star prospect. He selected Illinois over 20 other offers, including Iowa, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Ole Miss. He made visits to Iowa, Minnesota, and UCF in addition to Illinois. Green ranked as a top 30 defensive tackle in his class, and a top 10 prospect in Illinois. His reasons for selecting Illinois over more prestigious programs were his high opinion of the coaching staff, and wanting to represent his home state.
HIS TIME IN COLLEGE
Green enrolled as a DT with the Illini, but received a redshirt his debut season in 2017. During that redshirt year, Green was converted to the offensive line.
Beginning his playing career as a redshirt freshman in 2018, now along the offensive line, Green immediately became a full-time starter at left guard. He didn’t miss a start during the team’s 12-game season, as Illinois added over 130 rushing yards to their prior season average per game, finishing second in the Big Ten in total rushing and 12th in the country. Illinois went 4-8.
Green was again a 12-game starter at left guard for the Illini in 2019 as a redshirt sophomore, and added his first career start at center. Illinois finished ninth in the conference in rushing while going 6-7. Green received his first accolades that season, appearing on the All-Big Ten team as an honorable mention. He also received All-American status from Pro Football Focus, as an honorable mention.
Green spent his junior season in 2020 as a full-time starter, beginning with another five starts at left guard before kicking further inside as a center for the final three games of the season after the team’s starter was hurt. Illinois jumped up to third in the Big Ten in rushing that season, but finished 2-6 in the shortened year. Green finished his career with 33 consecutive starts.
Green was named an All-American by USA Today and was a consensus All-Big Ten first team selection. He was the first Illini player on offense to be named an All-American and Big Ten first-teamer since 2011, the first lineman to be an All-American since 2009, and first lineman to be on the Big Ten first team since 2007.
BY THE NUMBERS
Green played 33 games in his Illinois career, starting all of them. Four of those starts came at center, the other 29 at his primary position, left guard. He played over 840 snaps each of his two full seasons, and over 500 in his shortened final season. Here are his stat lines by year:
2020 (8 games): 527 snaps (316 at LG, 211 at C), no sacks, two QB hits, four hurries, and six pressures allowed, four penalties
2019 (13 games): 866 snaps (751 at LG, 115 at C), three sacks, two QB hits, 15 hurries, 20 pressures allowed, seven penalties
2018 (12 games): 846 snaps (all at LG), one sack, three QB hits, 11 hurries, 15 pressures allowed, nine penalties
Kendrick Green was not a player strongly linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to Day 2 of the NFL Draft. The Steelers did send o-line coach Adrian Klemm to the Illinois Pro Day but Green was not a frequent pick made in mock drafts for the team. Green was named a player with the potential to go sometime during Day 2 of the draft, however.
Here is a scouting profile on Green, authored by our Jonathan Heitritter.
HIS PITTSBURGH FIT
The key to Green’s fit for the Steelers is how they announced his selection. Pittsburgh announced Green as a center, not a guard. Meaning they view the versatile lineman as someone set to compete for the starting job with B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer, rather than serving as a backup at guard behind Kevin Dotson and David DeCastro.
Green lacks significant experience at the position, but warranted a valuable selection in the eyes of the franchise’s front office. Given that status, Green will likely be afforded every opportunity to compete for the starting job despite his lacking resume. He could win the job and start Week 1 for the Steelers over Finney and Hassenauer. Or, spend a season backing up one of those two players and the team’s guards while refining his game for a shot at starting in 2022.