When the Pittsburgh Steelers spent a third-round pick on Kendrick Green in the 2021 NFL Draft, the intention was for Green to be Pittsburgh’s center of the future. After Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement, Pittsburgh needed another stalwart at center and they viewed Green as that guy.
Green struggled when he started as a rookie, and it turns out, he just wasn’t a fan of playing center at all.
“I can be a lot better at guard. To be honest, I didn’t like playing center,” he said via a tweet from Ray Fittipaldo.
In the NFL, it doesn’t really matter how much you like playing one position versus another. If the Steelers believed Green’s best fit for the team was at center, he would be playing center. Per Alex Kozora, Green got “plenty of first-team reps during warmups” at left guard, and the team rotated he and Kevin Dotson at the position.
The two guards will likely compete throughout training camp and will be separated from each other to ensure the team is getting a good look at each player at the same spot.
While a player’s interest level at a position doesn’t matter, it can end up affecting his attitude, which could affect his performance. If Green really didn’t like playing center, his motivation to play the position and work at it could potentially be lower. I’m not saying that’s the case, because no one besides those within the organization truly know. Still, if he’s more motivated to play guard, it’s more likely he’ll excel at the position than the one he doesn’t want to play.
The motivation aspect, plus the fact he has more experience at guard, gives me confidence that he can be successful at the position if he sticks as a starter. Even if he ends up as a backup, I don’t think Green will be totally useless as a backup guard. He’s still young, and despite a sub-optimal rookie season, a position switch and continued development could help Green become a solid player for Pittsburgh.
When Green was drafted, his athleticism was lauded as one of his best traits, with then-Steelers GM Kevin Colbert saying at the time “You know, Kendrick, he’s unusually athletic for that position,” referencing his position change to center
At guard, he’ll have a good opportunity to show that athleticism off, whether it be through pulling or another way. Hopefully, Green will improve from his rookie campaign and become a valuable piece of the Pittsburgh offensive line. If Pittsburgh’s young offensive line can stick together for years to come and build chemistry, they will be in good shape. For that to occur, one of Green or Kevin Dotson will have to take a step to show value as a consistent starter in the league. That starts now at Saint Vincent College as the two fight to become the Week 1 starter in 2022.