When the Steelers passed on Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey and, instead, selected Penn State tight end, Pat Freiermuth, in the second round of the 2021 NFL on Friday night, I was a little surprised.
But I was only a little surprised. As I wrote in a recent article, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected from the Steelers on Day 2 of the NFL Draft; just when I think they’re going to take a known player who fits a specific need with their second and/or third-round pick, they go ahead and pick a guy I’ve never heard of. The good news with the Freiermuth selection was that I actually knew who he was. Also, he addressed a need that was perhaps as big or bigger than center.
As has been the tradition during my many years following the annual NFL Draft, I was fairly confident that the Freiermuth selection would bring to a close the “knowing players” portion of the draft for yours truly. Sure enough, when I woke up on Saturday morning to discover that Pittsburgh had selected Illinois guard/center Kendrick Green in the third round (87th, overall), I wasn’t surprised that I had no idea who he was.
That’s right, I never heard of the guy; after quickly taking a look at social media, I soon found out that Green’s overall draft ranking was 168 on someone’s board and that, oh yeah, there were any number of players the Steelers could have taken, instead.
Again, this was a common feeling for me—not knowing a player. I didn’t know the Steelers most recent third-round picks: Alex Highsmith (2020) and Diontae Johnson (2019).
If I may reference the recent article I wrote one more time, this is what happens with casual draft followers like me. The closer a prospect gets to triple digits in big board rankings, the less oxygen I have left in my brain to learn anything about him.
Thankfully, I usually have plenty of air in my head to learn about a player once the Steelers have drafted him, and after doing a bit of research, I really like this guy.
In fact, you might say Green is my new Kevin Dotson, a player who appears to have an engaging personality off the field and clearly has a mean and nasty streak on it.
I believe Green displayed both of those character traits when he celebrated his draft selection with his family on Friday.
That’s all feel-good stuff, however. Let’s talk shop. Green is a great athlete who converted over from the defensive side of the ball early in his college career. He turned in a speedy 4.85 40 time at his Pro Day in March. He is versatile and played both guard and center at Illinois.
Make no mistake, though, Green was drafted to be the team’s next starting center.
The Steelers went into the draft looking for starters at various positions.
The Steelers got their running back—Najee Harris—in the first round. They nabbed Freiermuth in the second. The selection of Green capped off the team’s mission to address at least three of those positions of need with the kind of draft pedigree normally reserved for players you’d like to see at the top of the depth chart sooner rather than later.
Speaking of social media, while glancing at Twitter on Saturday morning, I learned that Pittsburgh could have addressed those three positions with a different combination of players over the first two days of the draft. Did the organization take the wrong combo, instead? Who can really say? I’ve been following the draft long enough to know that I really don’t know.
It would be foolish for most to think otherwise about such an inexact science.
I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to these draft choices. You give me some players who address needs and aren’t reaches, I will find a way to get excited about them.
It’s not hard to be excited about Kendrick Green, a stranger I can’t wait to get to know a little better.