A new mini-series for Steelers Depot this offseason. We’re taking a look at which Steelers are under the brightest lights this offseason. Players who need to have big years in make-or-break seasons. Our fourth article in the series today highlighting OL Kendrick Green.
KENDRICK GREEN/OL (SECOND YEAR)
The second straight second-year player we’ve put under the microscope, joining linebacker Buddy Johnson. More proof that for better or worse, young players don’t get the time they used to. If you’re not making progress two years in, you’re on the chopping block.
Now, Green is likely to be on the roster in 2022, but the mere fact that’s how we have to start framing things is unsettling. He’s fighting to stay in the Steelers’ starting lineup, and frankly, is outside-looking-in right now. Struggling mightily at center last season, Green finished it on the bench, first due to injury and second, presumably, by team choice. Guard may be Green’s best chance to start this year but Kevin Dotson is the clear favorite at that position as the team enters the summer.
Not all of Green’s struggles were his fault. Pittsburgh threw him into the water without a life jacket. Sink or swim, rook. He struggled to keep his head above water and often sank. He wasn’t ready to be a Day One center, that was clear from the moment the team drafted him, but Pittsburgh did it anyway.
But results are results and Green’s were poor. He has to reinvent himself as something different in 2022. That probably takes the form of being a versatile interior swingman, playing all three interior spots, a similar role to B.J. Finney’s during the bulk of his Steelers career. Still, that won’t come naturally or as a given. It would require learning to play right guard, a spot he’s taken virtually zero snaps at throughout his career, college or pro. It’d also mean flat out playing better wherever he’s at. Being an improved technician, working on his punch, handling bull and power rushes a lot better than he did last year. None of that is guaranteed even at his natural spot of left guard.
If Green can’t do that and he can’t start, then there’s no role for him on the team. And hypothetically, he could be cut this summer. Even if he sticks, his Steelers career will be hanging on by a thread.
It would be unfair to give up on Green solely based off his rookie play. But he doesn’t get much more time to prove himself. Sophomore leaps should be evident early on this year, in camp, preseason, and the first month of the season if he plays. If he can make that jump, there’s hope. If not, his time with the Steelers will be short.