Matt Williamson is a former NFL scout and current co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio Subscribe to the podcast here. Williamson's opinions do not reflect those of the Steelers organization.
The Draft Pick: Kendrick Green, C, Illinois
The Draft Spot: Third Round, 87th Overall
After the Steelers selected Najee Harris with the 24th overall pick (Read Williamson Draft Review: Najee Harris), most thought it was a forgone conclusion that Pittsburgh would address their offensive line in the second round. Instead, they landed Pat Freiermuth (Read Williamson Draft Review: Pat Freiermuth) in round two. Kendrick Green was then Pittsburgh's choice in the third round.
The reason Pittsburgh could pull this off was that the 2021 NFL Draft was very rich in center talent with not many teams around the league in great need at the position. Alabama's Landon Dickerson was the first off-the-board in the early second round, although he might begin his career at guard in Philadelphia with Jason Kelce in place. Josh Myers and Creed Humphry came off the board late in the second frame to Green Bay and Kansas City, respectively. Green was then the fourth center drafted.
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers third-round pick Kendrick Green
As most Steelers fans know, the team has an unbelievably rich history at this position. Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson are both enshrined in the Hall of Fame and are quite possibly the greatest two centers in the history of the sport. Even dating back to Ray Mansfield, who Webster replaced, this team has had an amazing low amount of turnover at the center position because the quality of player here has just been so strong. Obviously Maurkice Pouncey is the latest example and Green will eventually have huge shoes to fill with Pouncey's retirement.
Green was the 87th player selected. The Steelers haven't used a pick that early on a center since drafting Pouncey in the first frame back of the 2010 draft. That is also the earliest Pittsburgh has selected an interior offensive lineman since making David DeCastro their first round pick in 2012. Both of those picks worked out quite well for Pittsburgh.
What is Green as a player? The two traits you most look for in centers is toughness and smarts. As long as a prospect has a baseline amount of physical traits, guys that are very tough and smart at this position last and are very difficult to get off the field. Green checks both of those boxes without question, but he is also much more than just a baseline athlete. Green has a wrestling background and was a baseball player. Wrestlers are "always-always-tough", in shape and generally have a great understanding of leverage and hand usage. Green started out as a defensive lineman - a position that demands more athletic ability than the offensive trenches. He then switched to guard at Illinois and is now making the full-time transition to center, a position he has played already, having started several games at the pivot. Green started 33 straight games to finish his college career which also speaks to his durability, toughness, and commitment.
Green's workout numbers at Illinois' Pro Day really are remarkable. At just under 6' 2" and 305 pounds, Green has a well-built frame and ample arm length and hand size. At that weight, Green ran his 40-yard dash in 4.88 seconds. His jumps were even more impressive - with a 35.5" vertical leap and a broad jump of just under 10 feet in distance. That is really getting off the ground for such a big person and his explosion off the ball is the first thing you notice on tape when studying him on the field. He is also very agile and does a great job in space blocking smaller targets. He has technique work to do in protection, but Green is already an accomplished run blocker with great physical traits. Green also reportedly squats 700 pounds and is great in the weight room.
What will be Green's role in 2021? As with all rookies, there is a lot to yet be determined. But Green is put in a very good situation for success. He has a clear road to becoming Pittsburgh's long-term starting center, but in the meantime, he doesn't have to be rushed into that starting role because BJ Finney is a proven commodity that can hold down the fort. Remember, playing center at this level is very challenging from a mental standpoint, although having DeCastro lining up next to Green will sure be helpful on game days during the learning process. Again, Green has huge shoes to fill at this position, but he also has a chance to keeping Pittsburgh's center lineage intact.