The Pittsburgh Steelers selectee offensive lineman Kendrick Green out of Illinois in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. While he didn’t play a lot of center in college, that’s the position he’s expected to play at the NFL level. Basically, the Steelers have tabbed Green to fill the shoes of the team’s last longtime center, Maurkice Pouncey. While filling Pouncey’s shoes will be a tall order for the shorter-statured Green, he’s already received a vote of confidence from his predecessor just the same.
“He reached out to me the morning after I was drafted, texted me,” said Green of Pouncey, per Teresa Varley of steelers.com. “That was crazy to hear from him. He is a Hall of Famer in my eyes. He has been a staple here, the center for a long time. Hopefully one day I plan on joining him, being a Steelers center for a long time in my career.”
While Green and Pouncey certainly can’t be compared when it comes to their pre-draft measurables, both certainly seem to have the same demeaner when it comes to how they play on the field. In short, Pouncey played with a mean streak his entire college and NFL career, and Green exhibited that same streak in college.
“I play hard. I play physical,” said Green to Varley. “I’ve played football that way my whole life.
“It’s just who I am. Growing up, the neighborhood I am from. I am from a neighborhood called the East Bluff in Peoria, Illinois. It’s kind of a rough place to live. Just growing up with that aggressive vibe is what I needed. I didn’t want to let anyone punk me.”
After the Steelers selected Green Friday night, new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm talked about the demeanor the young offensive lineman brings to Pittsburgh with him.
“We love the way that he plays in terms of what we have been talking about and in terms of changing our demeanor,” Klemm said of Green. “Just the type of attitude that we want to carry onto the field, he embodies all of that. He has great leadership qualities. He was an alpha in that program, and he is just a tremendous player. He can do it all. The pulls, physical in the run game, pass protect, all those different things. I’m just really ecstatic to coach him going forward.”
While Pouncey was selected in the first round out of Florida by the Steelers in the 2010 NFL Draft, Green was picked in the third round on Friday night. The fact that he measured in at 6017 and started just five games at center at Illinois are both good reasons why he wasn’t drafted earlier than that. Like Pouncey, however, Green seems fit to be the leader of the Steelers offensive line moving forward and probably sooner rather than later.
“Being a center is like the quarterback of the offense,” Green said. “You have to have leadership qualities.”
Time will tell if the Steelers made the right choice when it comes to Green. After all, the team had a chance to pick Wisconsin–Whitewater offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz, a fan favorite ahead of the draft, instead of Green at 87th overall. Like Green, Meinerz played at left guard during his college career but projected to be a candidate to move to center at the NFL level. Meinerz, by the way, was selected 98th overall by the Denver Broncos, who still have Mike Munchak as their offensive line coach.
For Green to become a Week 1 starter for the Steelers as a rookie, he’ll need to beat out veteran B.J. Finney for the job this summer. That’s a task it sounds like he is up for.
“I feel like the coaching staff believes in me and are willing to let me go to work. I just want to get my face in the playbook and learn. The faster I learn the playbook and the offense, the faster I can play. I feel like I am pretty football savvy, have a good football IQ. I love X’s and O’s. That has always been a thing for me. I really like talking ball, so I am excited.”