The Pittsburgh Steelers were very unambiguous when they drafted Kendrick Green out of Illinois in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. They were bringing him in as a center, this despite the fact that the vast majority of his offensive line play—after having previously played on the defensive line—was at guard.
In spite of his lack of experience at center, the scouts believe that he has the skills necessary to excel there, and that his long-term prospects favor playing at center at the NFL level rather than at guard. This ultimately worked for Dermontti Dawson, who never even played center in a game before arriving in the NFL.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a challenge, which Green was pretty open about when speaking to reporters after practice on Tuesday, in discussing some of the difficulties he’s faced entering the NFL. “I would say it’s more so just adjusting to playing center”, he said. “For me, I didn’t play too much center in college, just here and there. I would say it’s a grind, just like anything else, but I’m up for the challenge”.
Green was recruited as a defensive tackle, where he spent a redshirt season at that position. as a redshirt freshman in 2018, he started all 12 games at guard. He was a full-time starter for the remainder of his college career, encompassing four total starts at center, including three last season.
In other words, there is some quality tape out there of him working at center, so it’s not like the Steelers’ scouts were making a pure projection. Three starts at center just last season, out of the eight games the team played, is significant.
But not when related to a player’s comfort level overall in playing the position, including the timing. He admitted that it’s been a challenge getting used to how much quicker defensive tackles get your hands on you at center than they do at guard.
“I think that’s the biggest adjustment, from playing offensive line, the wider you go, the more space you’ve got”, he said. “So tackles get more time. Guards get a little bit of time. at center, you’ve got no time. So that’s something I’m getting used to”.
To his credit, I believe that we have seen him getting used to it over the course of the three preseason games in which he has already played. He will continue to have growing pains deep into his rookie season related purely to adjusting to the center position, but in the long run, at least in theory, it will work out for the better.