Size matters in the NFL, and it matters more at some positions compared to others. There are always exceptions to the rules, but the harsh reality is the norms are there for a reason. It's not personal bias or preference, it's simply the nature of the business.
There have been successful sub-six foot quarterbacks throughout the years, but they are the exception to the rule. All of these quarterbacks who have enjoyed sustained NFL success have been blessed with extraordinary abilities in other aspects besides height. They have been able to overcome real difficulties associated with their lack of length; like finding sight lines needed to diagnose coverages post snap, and throwing lanes to pass through while avoiding batted down passes. It can be done, but it's hardly the norm.
There was a rumor circulating the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine last week stating the Steelers were one of a few teams targeting Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when free agency officially begins on March 16. I understand the thought process behind the rumor, seeing how the center position was a huge weak spot for the team last season. Jensen would immediately be a huge upgrade, although an expensive one. He would bring a veteran presence to what is potentially a very young offensive line.
The focal point of this article isn't to argue the pluses and minuses of acquiring Jensen, rather to discuss the impact Jensen's presence would have on incumbent Kendrick Green.
Once the Jensen rumor started circulating on social media, it was received with almost universal support. This was the perfect scenario for numerous Steelers fans, many who still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after having yet another nightmare about Kendrick Green's rookie performance last season.
That's about when the inevitable suggestion from Steelers fans, with only the best of intentions, started to flow once again. The solution to the Kendrick Green situation is as clear as the nose on your face. Sign the soon to be 31-year old Jensen to solidify the vitally important center of the offensive line, and simply move the young and talented Green to guard, which in case you didn't know, was his collegiate position at Illinois.
Sounds simple enough, but in reality it's anything but simple. Green is an undersized NFL offensive lineman. Although his height and weight fluctuate greatly depending on the source, his official pro day measurements were 6'1-7/8", 312 lbs, and 32-1/4" arms. He is actually one of the shortest offensive linemen in the NFL. As far as I know, he was quite possibly the shortest starting offensive lineman in the NFL last year. His reach/wing span would also be one of the smallest in the league.
These measurements matter, regardless of what anyone tries to tell you. Massive defensive tackles with huge reach advantages quickly engulfed Green far too often in 2021, and he was regularly manhandled. These instances were often the direct result of technique issues for a player new to the position, trying to figure out the intricacies of the position at the highest level.
The fact he is slightly undersized for the position obviously didn't help the situation. The tough part is how this undeniable fact would be magnified even more at guard, where the league averages are even bigger. It's easier to compensate and overcome as a undersized center than it is guard, where 6'4" and 330 are considered the norm.
There is possible good news concerning Kendrick Green's future with the Black and Gold. Look no further than the aforementioned Ryan Jensen for a glimmer of hope. Jensen is a perfect example of hard work and determination. Jensen was a sixth round project from a small school when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 NFL Draft. He worked hard on honing his craft to provide reliable depth for the Ravens, but he didn't become a full-time starter until the 2017 season.
Jensen parlayed that success with the Ravens into a 4-year, $42 million dollar free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with $22 million guaranteed. He went from being a sixth round project to being the highest paid center in the NFL by taking full advantage of the opportunity to improve. Jensen wasn't a particularly impressive prospect athletically, hence the sixth round selection; however, he has shown the intelligence and determination to exceed the expectations his testing numbers would deem possible.
That is one area where Green already holds a huge advantage over Jensen, as Green has superior athleticism for the position. Green was obviously thrown into a situation he was hardly prepared for in his rookie season as the starting center for the Steelers. If the Steelers decide Jensen's veteran presence and performance are worth the cost, and if they are able to sign him, he should be a veteran mentor and stabilizing presence for Green.
The talented but inexperienced Green could focus on learning the nuances of playing the position from one of the best in the business. This after spending the offseason working with future Hall of Famer and former Steelers standout Maurkice Pouncey. Jensen could lead by example, as he obviously knows what it is like to start a career as a prospect and end up a highly successful, well paid Pro Bowl performer.