What Kendrick Green must do to uphold legacy of great Steelers centers
By Eric Hassel
Rookie Kendrick Green has some big shoes to fill for the Steelers, especially knowing how Pittsburgh has had some great ones over the years.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kendrick Green, a center out of Illinois, with their pick in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, I was a little taken back. I knew Pittsburgh would be “in the market” for offensive linemen this year considering it lost four-fifths of its starting offensive line from last season.
What I did not anticipate is the Steelers would draft a center and do so in the third round.
Here’s why I say that: When Pittsburgh signed B.J. Finney, a former Steelers O-lineman prior to the draft, I assumed rather incorrectly he would be the starting center, considering he had started 13 games for the black and gold at both center and guard over his four-year career.
Again, I was mistaken.
When Pittsburgh’s revised depth chart was released, which depicts Green as the starting center, my immediate thought was this: Will Green be able to uphold the legacy of the great centers we have been fortunate to watch over the decades? In fact, Green’s predecessor at center also started in his rookie season.
Maurkice Pouncey, the predecessor to whom I am referring, starting all 16 games in 2010, his rookie season. Pouncey would finish his Steelers career having started the 134 games in which he played. He would be named to nine Pro Bowls, would be named All-Pro twice, and would be named to the Hall of Fame 2010s team.
Like I said, some big shoes to fill.
Steelers drafted a center, Kendrick Green, in the third round whom they hope can continue the legacy of great centers
So what does Green have to do to maintain the tradition the Steelers have established at center?
First and foremost, let’s address something that’s bothering me. On the Steelers official website, Green is listed at 6-foot-4. However, according to the NFL official website, he is listed at 6-foot-2.
So which is it? Is he 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-4? When I played high school football, I was listed at 5-foot-7, but I was only 5-foot-6. But, again, that was high school football and not professional football. I would think we would want height and weight to be accurate.
In any event, let’s move on. I think the first thing Green must do to have the torch passed to him is to play well. I know that sounds simple, but it’s actually more difficult than it sounds.
The center is the linchpin of the offensive line. He is responsible to call out the protection and identify the Mike or middle (inside) linebacker. If Green can accomplish these tasks, great. If he cannot, it’s going to be a long day for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The second thing Green must do is learn from whatever mistakes he may make.
Look, asking a rookie to assume the mantle of the most important position on the O-line is daunting enough. The reality is that Green will make mistakes. With that said, he must be able to learn from those mistakes and not repeat them.
If Green can accomplish this, great. If he cannot, see my above comment about Big Ben having a long day.
The last thing Green must do to uphold the legacy of the Steelers’ great centers that preceded him is to respect the legacy itself. That legacy began with Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame center, whom Pittsburgh drafted in the fifth round of the legendary 1974 NFL draft.
I was honored to have watched him play from 1978 until his retirement.
Webster was dominant because he was incredibly strong at the point of attack. Webster was succeeded by Dermontti Dawson, another Hall of Fame center, who was dominant because of his incredible athleticism. Green will succeed the aforementioned Pouncey, who was not only strong at the point of attack but was athletic as well.
If Green can combine the strength of Webster, the athleticism of Dawson, and both of these attributes that Pouncey possessed, fans will talk about Green as being the next great center in Steelers history.