While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have ultimately drafted Kendrick Green with the immediate purpose of putting him at center and hoping that he can start right away, the reality is that his position flexibility to play guard, which is actually where he has the majority of his experience, was a factor as well.
The immediate need, of course, is at center. Maurkice Pouncey retired earlier this offseason after 11 years in the league, while they have David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson to play at guard. It is possible that, perhaps a year or two from now, he moves to guard as DeCastro moves on, and they find another center. Either way, it’s fine for Green.
“I’m real comfortable at both” the guard and center positions, he told reporters yesterday following the opening day of rookie minicamp. “Obviously, center is a little bit more the mental side of the game, but I’m fully prepared to swing that as well. I would definitely say the mental part is a little different”.
Otherwise, however, his attitude doesn’t change with regards to playing, whether it’s at center or guard. “It’s all the same”, he said, “playing physical, playing aggressive, and coming off the ball hard”, which is, of course, another one of the qualities the Steelers were attracted to.
Though he is capable playing the center position, however, he will be asked to do more than he would be used to, having made a small handful of starts at that position as an injury replacement. And that will be a lot to ask of a rookie for one of the most mentally demanding offensive positions.
“I can’t really put too much expectations on myself”, he said about the learning curve that he faces going from primarily playing guard in college to potentially being a full-time starting center at the NFL level. “My goal, I want to show up every day and compete and get as much out of every day as possible and try and maximize my time”.
The Steelers obviously believe that he is capable of handling the job, however—and they did say throughout the draft process that the center position was deeper this year than is typical—as they passed on other more experienced centers in the first two rounds. They could have drafted Landon Dickerson in round one. Creed Humphrey was available in the second round. And they left Quinn Meinerz on the table in the third round in favor of the Illinois product.
None of this guarantees that he comes in as a full-time starter right away, of course, and the Steelers do have some other options. Both B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer have some experience starting games at center for the Steelers in recent years, and they will be competing for the job this Summer as well.