Kozora: Steelers Must Admit Their Mistake On Kendrick Green

The NFL draft is art, not science. It doesn’t matter how sound your process is, how smart you are, the culture in your organization, every team is going to have their draft misses. Kevin Colbert is one of the best drafting GMs of his era and it’s littered with picks you hold your nose over: Artie Burns, Limas Sweed, Alonzo Jackson, you get the idea. Whether the Steelers’ brass likes it or not, Kendrick Green is part of that list. The misses. Perhaps less severely so because of the investment, a third round pick instead of a first or second, but the Steelers whiffed. Now they’re holding onto him, crossing their fingers they can get something out of him.

They can’t, won’t, and it’s time to move on.

Not all of that is Green’s fault. In a different situation, a different scheme, a different set of circumstances, Green might have been better. The ugly reality is prospects don’t work out for a variety of reasons and they’re not all player-related. Teams can screw things up as often as players just simply aren’t talented enough. There’s no question Pittsburgh misevaluated Green coming out. I can’t get over Mike Tomlin’s comments about their reason to draft Green in the third round of last year’s draft. Gritting my teeth reading it over, a reminder of what Tomlin said.

The money quote.

“We knew we were looking for a center who was game ready, and so we were looking for a senior, a guy who played four years of college football like he did at Illinois, as opposed to maybe somebody who was an underclassman with upside who may be less of a finished product.”

Kendrick Green was:

– Not a center
– Not game ready
– Not a senior
– An underclassman with upside who was less of a finished product

The complete opposite of what Tomlin said. They wanted a plug ‘n play center. They drafted a project. A primary guard they immediately moved to center. That in itself isn’t a bad idea, there was merit to playing Green in the middle, but he was a lump of clay who needed a ton of work, not replace Maurkice Pouncey out of the gate. It’s hard to misevaluate a player than the Steelers did with Green and no question has that hurt him in his NFL career. Having two offensive line coaches in two NFL years, and really three in three years considering these guys have to unlearn and adjust what their college coach wanted and taught, compounds the issue even more.

But Green has his own set of issues. Being undersized, short and without length that requires him to play with perfect technique. Moving him to his “natural” spot of left guard was logical but it wasn’t a cure-all, something Dave Bryan and I have predicted since those discussions came about. The same issues he’s had at center he’s having at guard and at this point, his core issues are likely to remain. When he plays with impeccable technique, there are quality reps. But it’s a coin flip over if you’ll get good or bad Kendrick Green on a given rep and when it looks ugly, it looks ugly.


And Kevin Dotson is the no-brainer choice to be the team’s starting left guard this season. Tomlin hasn’t announced it yet but it’s coming. Green’s on this roster as a backup and even in that lesser capacity, he’s bringing minimal value to the team. Backup offensive linemen in Pittsburgh are supposed to be versatile, wearing multiple hats and capable of playing more than one position. At best, Green’s only a backup left guard. He’s third-string center behind J.C. Hassenauer and has never logged time at right guard – I can only imagine how ugly things would look there. Pittsburgh has nine linemen on its 53-man roster and Green is #9, meaning he won’t be active on gameday. Trent Scott and newly acquired Jesse Davis can play multiple positions and have more value when in-game injuries strike.

In fact, Davis’ acquisition is tacit acknowledgment of Green’s limitations. They traded for Davis knowing the team needed a backup guard at both spots and Green couldn’t be that guy. In theory, you could move Kevin Dotson to RG if say, James Daniels went down in-game but no team wants to shuffle two spots to replace one guy.

Pittsburgh’s facing the sunk cost fallacy. The idea of we’ve already have so much invested, let’s hold on. Throw good money after bad and watch it blow away. What’s strange is Omar Khan and Andy Weidl didn’t even draft Green and wouldn’t have the egg on their face if they had – this was a Kevin Colbert pick. Some would argue cutting with Green a year into his career is too early, to give it more time, to wait and see if things get better. But Green’s played a ton of snaps in his NFL career. All last camp, all last preseason, nearly 1000 snaps last regular season, the entire 2022 camp, and this whole preseason. There’s more than enough to evaluate him. This team probably knew by the second week of camp if Green was going to sink or swim. By now, they know the writing’s on the wall.

Maybe Green can and have success elsewhere. That happened to Kraig Urbik a decade ago, a third round pick released before his second season. He found new life in Buffalo and went on to enjoy a solid career. But Green’s odds of succeeding in Pittsburgh are remote. It’s part of the NFL draft cycle. It sucks, it hurts, you move on.

It’s not even worth spending the time thinking about the could’ves like Creed Humphrey, the prize center of the draft. That’s wasted energy and to the Steelers’ credit, they hit big with their top two picks in Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth. I don’t look at the Green pick with a crystal ball lens All I see is reality. Green isn’t Plan A or Plan B. Selecting him was a mistake. The only thing worse than making a mistake is holding onto one, trying to convince yourself you didn’t.

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