There will be growing pains, but it continues to look increasingly likely that rookie center Kendrick Green is going to be afforded the opportunity to work with them as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starter this season. A third-round pick out of Illinois, he was drafted following the retirement of 11-year veteran Maurkice Pouncey, stepping into some big shoes to fill.
While he has been consistently listed as second on the depth chart since training camp opened, behind J.C. Hassenauer, Green is the one who has actually been on the field working with the first-team offensive line whenever he’s been available, minus a few excused absences.
When asked following today’s practice if Green has been determined to be ‘the guy’ yet at center, head coach Mike Tomlin hedged slightly first before answering, “you can surmise that, but there will be no bold announcements”.
This is far from a surprise, as he was anticipated to be the center from the moment he was drafted. His only competition is Hassenauer, a second-year former undrafted free agent, and B.J. Finney, another former undrafted free agent going into his sixth season, who has been traded and cut in the past 12 months.
But Green will be only one of numerous changes along the offensive line, which includes another new face right next to him in Trai Turner. In spite of the fact that he is by far the most veteran player on the line, going into his eighth season and with five Pro Bowls behind him, Turner is the newest member of the Steelers’ starting lineup on offense, signed in late June.
He replaces David DeCastro, their nine-year veteran guard whom they were forced to waive with an injury in order to create salary cap space to replace him, as he tends to an injured ankle that requires surgery, and contemplates retirement.
Also new to the starting lineup is Kevin Dotson, whom Tomlin no longer seems to be toying with now that he is back in full swing, unambiguously working with the first-team line. Zach Banner was also back on the field working at right tackle, with Chukwuma Okorafor in place on the left side.
Neither tackle has ever started and finished a game in the positions in which they’re currently working. Banner won the starting right tackle job last year, but tore his ACL in the opener. Okorafor replaced him for the rest of the season, and has 18 total starts in his three-year career, but all have come on the right side.
Green, however, may be the centerpiece of this unit. His athleticism and aggressiveness, as well as his leadership attributes, should serve him well, and mitigate any deficiencies in his game that he might have.