As happens every year, Pittsburgh Steelers fans went from ‘Why that guy?’, if not ‘Who’s that guy?’, with the selection of Kendrick Green in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, to being really excited about the prospect of him developing into a long-term answer at center.
No matter how much time you put into the draft, it’s simply impossible to do an exhaustive study on every single prospect. It’s only natural that once you know the 5-10 names of the players who will be coming to your team, you can dig a lot deeper and find out who they really are as a player. That process has been underway for Green.
That’s especially important when you consider the fact that he is going to be asked to play a position on which there is not a lot of tape. General manager Kevin Colbert covered that topic with Pat Kirwan yesterday on SiriusXM the fan. While they essentially have drafted him to play center, he has primarily been a guard for the vast majority of his career — and was even a defensive lineman in high school.
“He’s only played center part of his junior year at Illinois, so we don’t think we’ve seen the best of him at center,” Colbert said. “This was an unusually deep center group. There was a lot of quality players there, including Kendrick, so again, third round as kind of easy to pick him in there, and again, we were fortunate that he was available. But I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him at the center position.”
Personally, I find myself excited over the prospect of his development at the center position. In particular, I take comfort in the fact that, when you actually watch his tape where he’s playing center, you wouldn’t know that he hasn’t always played a position where he snaps the ball.
He’s coming into the league with a certain natural level of comfort with that all-important task at the position, even if it’s not necessarily something he has extensive experience doing. It’s really just about repetition at this point.
Perhaps the biggest question will simply be whether size will be a hindrance, including arm length. I’m not overly worried. And neither is Colbert, who talked about how athletic linemen can garner a reputation for being soft, but that that’s the furthest thing from the case for Green — which, again, is no surprise coming from a defensive background.
But, will he be the starting center on opening day? He might not have the most extreme competition — the only other centers on the roster are career backups in B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer — but the Steelers aren’t handing him the job. Even Maurkice Pouncey had to surpass Justin Hartwig as a rookie.