Asking a rookie to come in and replace a legend is a tough ask. Doing it at a position that requires a ton of communication and making sure the rest of your position group knows what they're doing is even harder. But that is exactly what the Steelers have asked from rookie center, Kendrick Green. The University of Illinois alumni was one of the prospects the Steelers front office identified as a top prospect at his position and took him a little higher than he was projected to go. Not only that, but they did something previously unheard of for this management team, they made him, as a third round pick, a starter immediately.
We knew there would be some growing pains going from one legendary center to one who was mostly a guard in college. But it was clear the Steelers liked his aggressiveness and his athleticism. He carried the intangibles that other legendary Steelers centers possess, and the team gambled on those intangibles making him a great football player. At Green’s Pro Day in Illinois he measured in at slightly under 6’2” and a little less than 305 pounds, his NFL profile says he's 6’4” 315 pounds. He is clearly undersized, and NFL defensive tackles have been bullying him all over the field.
One of the cardinal sins of center play is getting blown up on passing plays and getting marched back into the quarterback’s lap. It happens now on a weekly basis where Green is back peddling into the passer and breaking down plays because of it. It is more of an issue against the better defensive tackles like Akiem Hicks, but this is the NFL and you can't just fold your tent against great talent. Another cardinal sin of the position is firing snaps over your quarterback’s head, and Green’s snaps have gotten progressively worse as the year has gone on. Ben Roethlisberger has made some athletic plays catching Green’s snaps and Mason Rudolph had to eat a 20 yard loss after Green fired one 5 feet over his head.
This issue looks beyond that of “just hitting the weight room”, a topic you will find many fans suggest will fix Green’s issues. But he is undersized, and can only get so strong. Longer defensive tackles will continue to get under his pad level and move him against his will.
A prevalent idea is simply moving Green back out to his more natural guard spot, but his problems will persist the same at the spot, which is a position typically bigger than your center. In an ideal world Green is your middle three backup, and can step into any spot based on injury. I don't see him as a full-time starter in this league. Sure, he can develop, but as a player about to turn 23 he only has so long to improve his game.
I understand Green is a rookie, but a position as important as center a team can't sit back and wait years for them to develop. The Steelers need to keep the position on the board when it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft and free agency, and cannot be afraid to improve in this area. The Steelers would be so much better with solid center play, and they are simply not getting that right now.
But what do you think? Would you be ok with the Steelers going out and trying to replace Kendrick Green this offseason? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.