Following his selection in the third round at No. 87 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers center Kendrick Green’s rookie season was anything but smooth.
After making the transition full-time from guard in college to center — a position he played sparingly at Illinois — Green went through a number of growing pains and hard lessons learned on the gridiron at the heart of a rebuilt Steelers’ offensive line that struggled mightily overall in Ben Roethlisberger’s final season in Pittsburgh.
Now, in the height of an important offseason for the second-year center, Green — speaking with the Illini Inquirier as part of 247 Sports — reflected on the trying lessons and up-and-down play he experienced as a rookie in 2021, and how he plans on rebounding from a tough year overall.
According to Pro Football Focus, Green graded out at a 52.4 overall as a rookie, playing in 925 snaps before landing on the bench due to injury, according to both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, though there is reason to believe his play had something to do with that, as well.
“Obviously, the game is a lot faster and stuff like that, and I was ready for that,” Green told the Inquirer. “But, man, the game is a lot more complex. That’s something I’ve kind of gotten accustomed to and kind of learned to appreciate.
“…I enjoyed it, man. It was dope,” Green added regarding his rookie season. “A lot of learning lessons and growing pains, but nonetheless it’s a blessing. My dream come true. You can’t go anywhere in Pittsburgh without someone recognizing you. It’s love, man. I love being in Pittsburgh. I love the fans. I think it’s the best place to play ball.”
What the Steelers plan to do with Green in his second season remains to be seen. The Steelers could certainly look for a veteran free agent center to bring in and compete with Green and backup J.C. Hassenauer, who played well in place of Green late in the season. They could also kick Green to left guard and flip Kevin Dotson back to his more natural right guard position, especially with Trai Turner expected to leave in free agency.
Green says he isn’t worried about what comes next though. He’s focused on his training and tightening up holes in his game.
“Obviously I’ve started training again and getting stronger, getting faster, becoming more knowledgeable about the game,” Green said. “There’s just a bunch of things to tighten up on. Film’s a big thing and critiquing yourself, kind of dipping into other guys you’re playing against and stuff like that, that always helps.”
One topic though that continues to be the center of discussion with the Steelers is the quarterback position following Roethlisberger’s retirement. Green is in the dark with that conversation, though he spoke glowingly about Roethlisberger, who lended a helping hand to the young rookie tasked with taking over for a potential Hall of Fame center in Maurkice Pouncey, number and all.
“I’m excited to see who it’s going to be,” Green said regarding the Steelers’ quarterback search. “Y’all know just as much as me. In case y’all were going to ask me that I have no idea. I’m excited to see what happens. I think playing with Ben my first year, a future Hall of Fame, was a blessing. I’m going to miss him. I learned a lot from him. He definitely helped me out getting my foot in the door.”