Hyperbole, much? Why not? It’s June. This is the time of year when one perhaps should be super-optimistic about a draft choice. After all, if you can’t be bullish on a prospect like Steelers third-round pick Kendrick Green in early summer, when can you?
Not likely once the pads start popping for real. That’s when all the hype will end and all the true analysis and evaluation will begin.
But what if Green is really good? We know he’s an athlete. We know he’s strong. We know he’s agile and mobile. We know he loves to block for the run. We know he’s super-intense in a “David Puddy in his introductory face-painting episode on Seinfeld” kind of way.
We also know Green only made four starts at center in college and spent the majority of his time playing guard.
Maybe that won’t matter. That’s the great thing about these draft choices; you just never know.
Mike Webster’s tenacity, skill-set and legendary ability to out-leverage his opponents? Green may already be superior in all of those areas. What about Webster’s streak of 177 games played? That would be impossible for Green to break, right? Never say never. There’s a huge difference between 1974 and 2021 in terms of the fitness, strength and stamina of a professional athlete.
How about Dermontti Dawson and his athletic abilities? After all, he was so special, the Steelers used to pull him on running plays. After Merril Hoge signed with the Bears as a free agent back in the 1990s, they tried to pick his brain about Pittsburgh’s ground game. According to Hoge, when he started one sentence with, “Well, on this particular play, we pulled the center....” the Bears were taken aback that Hoge’s former team had a player at the position who could do such a thing.
As I said, it’s 2021, and centers that can pull aren’t as rare as they were in Dirt Dawson’s day. Besides, who’s to say Green, blessed with 4.8 speed, won’t be able to revolutionize the position even more?
What about Maurkice Pouncey and his ability to lead his teammates? Can Green be the same locker room and field general as the guy he’s trying to replace? I think so. Teams go into the draft looking for specific personality traits; it would appear that Green has the makeup to lead an offensive line and, one day, maybe even an entire locker room.
I realize that, in Webster, Dawson and Pouncey, I’m talking about three centers with a combined 25 Pro Bowl appearances on their resumes. Not only that, but the first two are already in the Hall of Fame, while the third one may get there sooner rather than later.
And what about Ray Mansfield and Jeff Hartings, two underrated centers who were starters on Super Bowl winners?
Did anyone think a center could come along and surpass the abilities of Webster after he left in the late-’80s? Probably not, but the Steelers actually drafted Dawson when Iron Mike was still on the roster.
Was anyone expecting Pittsburgh to hit the center trifecta when it landed Pouncey in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft? I mean, I think folks thought he could be good, but THAT good?
These are examples of why one shouldn’t try and verbally limit the possibilities of a young player. Not that it matters when people do that—well, unless those people are coaches—but it sure does seem boring. Also, what’s wrong with saying to a youngster, “See the rich tradition at the position we want you to play? You could take the ball and snap it higher than any of the legends who preceded you.”
That’s what’s so intriguing about draft choices. You just never know how far they can go. This is especially the case for centers that are drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
No sense in putting any limitations on them right out of the gate.