2021 Draft Class Review – iOL Kendrick Green

With the 2022 NFL Draft now just weeks away, it is as fitting a time as any for us to now turn our attentions backward to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class of 2021, looking back on their first year in the league and what their futures look like at this point. The team got an inordinate amount of playing time from their rookie class last season, with almost every draft pick contributing significantly.

In all, the Steelers held nine draft selections, including one in the fifth round after they traded a 2022 fourth-round draft pick for one, so they won’t have one this year. They had at least one selection in every round, with two in the fourth and two in the seventh.

Their first four selections were all on offense, the first time in history they used their first four selections on one side of the ball. Their next four draft picks were all defensive players, but they finished their class with one special-teams selection.

The prevailing opinion about the Steelers entering the 2021 NFL Draft was that their biggest need was along the offensive line. When their selections in the first two rounds came and went and they still hadn’t added a lineman to the mix, it had already been deemed a failed draft by many.

They devoted their next two draft picks, in the third and fourth rounds, to the offensive line position, however. In the third round, they chose Illinois guard Kendrick Green, whom they set about moving to center, where he did start four games in college.

He was a day-one starter following the retirement of former All-Pro Maurkice Pouncey, and with not a lot of competition, in the form of J.C. Hassenauer and B.J. Finney. But he struggled, really throughout the entirety of his rookie season, and was likely among the worst primary starting interior linemen in the league last season.

Needless to say, Green faces a lot of pressure entering his second season. The Steelers signed two veteran starter-capable interior offensive linemen in free agency, with James Daniels likely their new right guard. Mason Cole was signed as well, whose preference is to start at center.

Cole isn’t guaranteed a starting job, but he should be viewed as the favorite, which leaves one job open, where Kevin Dotson was the primary starter last season. Dotson, however, missed most of the year due to injury.

Can Green be better at guard than center in the NFL? He did acknowledge multiple times throughout the course of the season that there were aspects of adjusting to the center position that he was struggling with.

It would be a mistake to complete write off the rest of his career, of course. It is obvious that he was not ready to be a full-time starter last year, which is not exactly uncommon for rookies. It will be interesting to see what he looks like this summer and whether he shows significant signs of improvement.

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