There are still weeks of games and practice to get through before we know who the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting center is on opening day, but the signs certainly seem to be pointing to the person we thought it would be since the draft: Rookie third-round pick, Kendrick Green.
While there were reports that J.C. Hassenauer took the majority of the reps at center during OTAs and minicamp, it’s Green lining up there at the opening of training camp. Head coach Mike Tomlin already announced that the rookie would be starting there in the Hall of Fame game, though as always, he cautions about reading into preseason alignments.
Still, while still processing the loss of Maurkice Pouncey, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger certainly seems to be pleased with what he has seen so far from the man who is likely to be the last center he ever takes a snap from before he hangs it up.
“He’s got a passion for the game, a passion to be the starting center”, he told reporters about Green following Thursday’s practice. “He knows the shoes and the role that he’s filling. He stayed here during our break and worked and met with coaches, and I was checking in on him. He’s taking this personal, and I think he wants to be the best, and wants there not to be a drop-off, and I think that’s a good attitude to take”.
Drafted out of Illinois, Green actually comes from a background along the defensive line, and his primary position in college was at guard. He only filled in at center a handful of games due to injury when such situations arose, but the Steelers believe he profiles well there.
It wouldn’t be the first time they drafted a player with little to no experience at center and had it work well. Dermontti Dawson had never played center in a game by the time he was drafted. He played guard as a rookie, but moved to center in year two. Oh, and he wound up in the Hall of Fame or something, so he was pretty good.
Now, that’s an awfully high bar for Green, and we probably shouldn’t be talking about the Hall of Fame for him, at least until we know if Pouncey himself is going to get in, but there is a reason that the Steelers drafted him, and a reason that he is trending to be their starting center from day one.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that he showed through his dedication over the course of the offseason how much this is something that he wants, working with coaches during the break and trying to angle his way to every advantage possible. It’s clearly endeared him to his quarterback, and that alone makes it worth it.