The Pittsburgh Steelers closed out their 2022 season with J.C. Hassenauer starting at center over rookie Kendrick Green, the team’s 2021 third-round draft pick. That move in the final three games want overly surprising based on the way Green had played all season. With Green seemingly being benched in favor of Hassenauer to close out the season, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to comment on that topic during his Tuesday end-of-season press conference. Tomlin was asked about the move to Hassenauer from Green to close out the season, and if indeed the rookie might have a move to guard in his future.
“I do believe J.C. gave us the best opportunity to win at the latter portions of the season,” Tomlin stated on Tuesday. “That’s why we played him. And I am optimistic that KG has position flexibility. That’s one of the reasons why he was attractive to us. We saw 2020 Illinois tape where he started and played in games at center, and he started and played in games at guard. And so that’s a component of his resume.”
While Tomlin gave a strong hint that a move to guard might be in Green’s future, he did make it clear that the Illinois product could still stay at center as well.
“But I’m not ready to lay the center work to bed either,” Tomlin said of Green. “We made decisions at the end of the year that gave us the best chance to win based on those circumstances. And there’s a myriad of variables in those circumstances, and it might not reflect our plans, our intentions as we push forward in the 2022.”
Green sure will need to improve dramatically as a center to have a shot at keeping that starting position in 2022. Heck, he’ll need a lot of improvement to show he can be a starting guard in the NFL as well. Yes, Green mostly played at guard throughout his college career, but a lot the problems he had at center during his rookie season won’t just go away if he makes the move to guard. He has an uphill battle ahead of him for sure.
Will the Steelers address the center position via free agency or the draft? They better. While Hassenauer was an upgrade over Green late in the season, in no way should the team depend on him being their starter in 2022, either. We shall see how this ultimately plays out, but for now, consider the Steelers likely knowing that they have an issue at center that needs to be resolved this offseason. They might have one at guard as well should Green not be able to transition back to that position as a starter at the NFL level.
For whatever it’s worth, Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa figures to be one of the top centers in this year’s draft class, so he might be an option this year in the first round.