There’s no question Kendrick Green’s rookie season has been a difficult one. But in all fairness to him, the Pittsburgh Steelers have asked more out of their third-round pick than probably any other third-rounder in football. Asked about his relationship with Green, Ben Roethlisberger essentially acknowledged as much in his Wednesday meeting with the media.
“It’s been great,’ he said of their relationship. “I think he took some heat in this building specifically after the Minnesota game for some of the snaps. I walked in today, I said, Hey, good job, no bad snaps. Every wants to get on you when there’s bad snaps, but no one says good job when there’s no bad snaps. So just wanted to reinforce to him that I think he’s doing a great job.”
Green struggled mightily in getting the snap off in that loud, domed Minnesota environment. On at least three occasions, he failed to snap the ball despite Roethlisberger’s pleas, leading to delay of games and false starts. The worst-looking moment came on an eventual Vikings’ encroachment penalty with Roethlisberger clamping and stomping his feet to no avail.
But Roethlisberger said the team has put a lot on Green’s plate this season, too.
“His job is not easy. It’s not like he’s a player that’s played center his whole life and he’s just making the transition. He’s a guy that’s got very few center snaps. We ask our center to make some calls, quite a bit of calls, identification stuff. I’ll help him out with some things, but for the most part he’s doing most of it. And then you gotta snap the ball and then block a guy in front of you. So all those things considered, I think he’s done a great job.”
Every offense is different though generally, the center is the player responsible for making the line calls. Identifying the MIKE linebacker, possibly changing protections, and being the traffic cop of the o-line. When the team had a smart, veteran center like Maurkice Pouncey, assigning him that job was a no-brainer. But it’s a bit surprising to see Green being asked to do the same thing. Green is a rookie who could (and maybe should) be in his redshirt senior season at Illinois right now who started just a handful of games at center in college. Perhaps given all that is on his plate, it’s no surprise to see him struggle.
Over the weekend, Mike Tomlin made interesting comments about their approach in drafting Green. Speaking to Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola, Tomlin said the team was looking for a “game-ready” center. Green, by most draftnik accounts, including our own, was a raw prospect who needed time to develop. In other words, the opposite of what Tomlin says the team was trying to draft.
None of that should completely absolve Green’s struggles. He was their pick, he is their starter, and that’s all that really matters. But context is important and it’s hard to see how anyone in Green’s shoes could’ve had a lot of success this season. The question Pittsburgh will need to ask themselves this season is if Green is still the right guy going forward. A quick judgment to make, sure, but Green has also played a ton of football so there’s more to evaluate than your typical third-round pick.