Given how significant the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie class has been so far during the 2021 season, it would be fitting if we use some of the downtime this week during the team’s bye to pause and take stock of where those rookies are right now.
Pittsburgh drafted nine players, with eight of them making the initial roster. Seven of them have been regular contributors for all or most of the season, including numerous starters, so there is a lot to discuss, with four starters on the offensive side of the ball alone.
After investing in the skill positions in the first two rounds with running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth, the Steelers turned to the offensive line, with center Kendrick Green in round three, followed by tackle Dan Moore Jr. in round four. All four are starting.
Their next four picks all went to the defense, starting with inside linebacker Buddy Johnson in the fourth round, followed by defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth, outside linebacker Quincy Roche in the sixth, and defensive back Tre Norwood in the seventh. They rounded things out with punter Pressley Harvin III with a final seventh-round pick.
C Kendrick Green (Round 3)
Of the rookies who have played a significant amount this season—which is everybody who made the roster short of fourth-round pick Buddy Johnson—third-round center Kendrick Green has been their worst performer.
That statement in and of itself is actually not that harsh of a rebuke, because, for the most part, their rookies have been positive contributors, particularly first-round running back Najee Harris and second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth.
But Green has had, by far, the most significant, and most frequent, struggles among their rookies, spending a frustratingly large amount of time on the ground. That is, unfortunately, something that is on his college tape, so it’s not just a matter of adjusting to the NFL level.
Still, it would be really disingenuous to paint it as all bad for Green. Quite frankly, he would have been benched if that were the case. His excellent athleticism is on display often enough whenever the Steelers can ever actually work to the second and third levels, for example.
And you’ll never have to tell him to slow down. Nobody plays quite through the echo of the whistle like Green does—which is, to be honest, how he gets the majority of his ‘knockdowns’ of defenders. But a pleasant surprise has been his relatively clean snapping, which has hardly gone commented upon at all, and something we should not forget, not trivialize, especially considering he played little center in college.
There is still reason for optimism for Green, to be sure. Even David DeCastro didn’t play very well through his first two seasons, as far as I’m concerned, or at least very substantially inconsistent. He wasn’t frequently put on his butt the way Green has, but he didn’t come into the league as an All-Pro, that’s for sure, knee injury or not.