The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a guard last year and asked him to start at center. At least, that wouldn’t be a totally inappropriate description of 2021 third-round draft pick Kendrick Green and his rookie season. Having primarily played guard in college (he had four total starts at center), he was named the day-one starting center, where he worked all offseason, even while openly acknowledging that he wasn’t really comfortable many aspects of it.
Just how uncomfortable was he? Well, speaking to reporters during OTAs, to put numbers on it, he said that his comfort level during his rookie season with the center position was at a two, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He estimates that he is at about a six or a seven now. “Obviously, you want to be a 10”.
If he can’t get much closer to 10 between now and the start of the regular season, then he’s certainly not going to be the Steelers’ opening-day starting center in 2022. They made sure of that in free agency, signing two veterans who are capable of starting at center in Mason Cole and James Daniels. Cole has apparently been running first-team center without rotation through the first two practices (Daniels at right guard).
The good news for Green is that he still has an opportunity to start at guard, competing with third-year Kevin Dotson, with whom he has, reportedly, been rotating. Still, he did tell reporters that it would have been a major adjustment for him going from college to the pros last year even if he was at guard. “It’s the ****ing NFL”, as Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review quoted him as saying, via Twitter.
Fittipaldo writes that Green informed reporters he is working at both guard and center this offseason, after having worked exclusively at center during his rookie year. “It’s an adjustment”, he acknowledged, though not as much as trying to find any level of comfort at center in 2021.
“Last year was a new position and getting comfortable. I still don’t feel 100% comfortable playing center”, the second-year man admitted. “It’s a different stance. It’s getting used to that and being able to move functionally that way was the biggest thing, and I’m still working on it”.
Not every lineman is naturally suited to quickly adapting to multiple roles—and frankly, the better you are, the less that matters. David DeCastro only ever played right guard—never left. And it’s easier to go from center to guard than guard to center, for a number of reasons.
Former Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak recently waxed poetic about how blessed he was to have Maurkice Pouncey at center during his time in Pittsburgh, because he was able to carry out all of the various tasks assigned to the starting center position so effortlessly—minus the occasional botched (or very botched) snap. Pouncey has made himself available to Green, and that should be an invaluable asset no matter where he ends up playing.