It would be fair to say that the story of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season thus far is the play of their rookie draft class, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. When more than a third of your unit is made up of rookies, of course, it’s hard to avoid.
Most of the headlines go to the guys who move the ball, namely running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth, but it goes without saying that their two rookie linemen, and their ups and downs, have also helped define their offense.
Both Dan Moore Jr. and Kendrick Green were struggling a fair bit at the start of the season, but both have also improved over the weeks. Green has had a higher hill to climb, perhaps, but he has been making progress, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger telling reporters yesterday that his rookie center has come “a long way”.
“He’s still learning, he’s still growing”, Roethlisberger said. “We still tell people, I’m not sure how many games he’s played at center in his life, but it’s not very many. I’m just proud of him. I told him that after the game that night. Sent him a text of just how proud I was of his play, and just to keep doing it”.
A day one starter, for better or worse, Green has logged 459 snaps on the season so far, or 98 percent (missing a snap or two here and there due to injury). His last game on Sunday against a good Cleveland Browns’ front was probably his best showing so far.
The fact that he still has so much to learn about the center position itself while making the transition to the NFL makes his performance even more significant, and that’s something that his quarterback acknowledges, explaining what the process has been like, for example, with their snap exchange.
“When we were working on under-center snaps in OTAs, my hand was kind of off to the side and we were having issues”, he acknowledged. “I was like, ‘alright, well, if you hit this spot every time, we’ll be good’. It wasn’t always pretty and we’re still working. Some of the shotgun snaps, you can see are a little high and whatnot. When he turns around, I just give him that little look like, lower it down, [he’s like], ‘I gotcha’”.
The snap exchanges have been pretty clean for most of the season, really not much different from what we have gotten from Maurkice Pouncey over the past decade. The bigger adjustment for Green has been instead the fact that he has big defensive tackles on him so quickly after snapping the ball.
But it all comes in time, and he’s starting to get the hang of things more and more each week. Even the people who were ready to write him off after two or three games are starting to change their tune, or at least to stop singing for now and start listening.