The Pittsburgh Steelers needed options at center once Maurkice Pouncey announced his retirement. While they retained J.C. Hassenauer from last season, they also brought back B.J. Finney as a free agent. They used the 2021 NFL Draft to bring in Kendrick Green, who has started each of the first two preseason games. But while they have been impressed with his work, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm let it be known that the battle is ongoing.
“Everything’s up for grabs. There’s nothing set in stone”, he told reporters after practice when asked about Hassenauer running with the ones today with Green having an excused absence, and the state of the position. “I Think KG’s played himself into a nice position. He’s definitely in contention”.
Despite the hedging about where he will be on opening day, Klemm still offered plenty of praise for the rookie. “He’s been working really hard and getting better every single day. He’s been getting more comfortable at the position, and I think he’s done a really nice job coming in to have that tough pressure and expectations that we have”, he said.
Admittedly, he had a bit of a rocky outing on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles’ stout defensive line, which included his allowing a key third-down sack in the second quarter. But while he sees the work to be done, Klemm remains optimistic about the tape, and “most definitely” has seen him handle gameday pressure.
He’s another guy that’s played a number of games. He’s moved around a lot. There’s been games where he had to go in and play center without taking any reps during the week. I think the more that he settles in on it, he did really well in terms of coming back and knowing his assignment. But the deeper understanding and comprehension of what we’re trying to do, why we’re doing it, where guys need to be, IDing things, getting guys where they need to be, that’s what I’ve been really pleased with. From a technical standpoint, all of that will come. It’s a lot, mentally, but he’s been very capable of maintaining and building that each day, and as everything comes together, I think he’s gonna be a pretty good player for us.
He would once again reiterate that the starting center role is not settled, but added of Green, “I think he’s put himself in a good position to compete for that starting spot”. That has been the outside expectation pretty much since the day he was drafted, though, so I certainly don’t think anybody will be surprised by that.