If the Pittsburgh Steelers are to truly re-establish a physical rushing attack in 2021, it will have to start up front with rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green at center.
That may seem like a bit of a stretch, but think about it: if the Steelers want to get back to a punishing style of rushing attack, they’ll need the nastiness to match that style of play in the trenches. That’s where Green comes in.
Coming out of OTAs, Green — selected 87th overall out of Illinois by the Steelers — will have all eyes on him as he battles veterans B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer to win the starting center job. Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski pegged the physical, athletic rookie as the Steelers’ rookie to watch coming out of OTAs, highlighting Green’s transition from guard to center full-time, as well as the Steelers’ long history of greatness at the position, as reasons to keep an eye on the fresh face.
“The third-round rookie is expected to make a full-time transition over the ball, though he can play either guard spot,” Sobleski writes. “At Illinois, Green started only four games at center. Yet he’s seen as a natural at the position. More importantly, he brings a level of competitiveness and nastiness to the position that’s been lacking along the Steelers offensive line for some time.”
Sobleski is spot on that the competitiveness and nastiness has been lacking up front for some time. In the last three years or so, a group that was once considered the best offensive line in football aged quickly, lost its ability to move guys on the line of scrimmage and turned into a rather passive group overall as the Steelers relied more and more on the passing game.
With Green, as well as guys like left guard Kevin Dotson and right tackle Zach Banner, that hopefully changes for the better. It will start with the mentality Green plays with in his transition to center.
“”It just sets the tone, especially at that position,” new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said to reporters in late May. ‘It’s the belly of the beast. He comes out and he’s playing with that type of demeanor that carries throughout the group. If we play collectively like that, it is contagious on the team.”
Though the transition full-time to center could provide some bumps in the road early on, Green should help the Steelers re-establish a physical, nasty demeanor in the run game.