LATROBE, Pa. — The NFL referees working the Pittsburgh Steelers practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium on Friday night were not wearing microphones.
So the record-setting crowd in attendance was not forewarned that something interesting was about to happen when the Steelers’ third-team offense was getting ready to engage in an 11-on-11 team period.
Third-year center Kendrick Green checked into the game as an eligible receiver and lined up at fullback. On the first snap, he was a lead blocker for running back Darius Hagans, snuffing out Quincy Roche to open a big hole on the left side.
The second play caused the biggest cheer of the night. Mason Rudolph faked a handoff and rolled to his left. Green sprinted out into the flat and Rudolph hit him in stride, letting the big man turn up field before being tackled.
That set the crowd off, and Green’s teammates charged across the field at him to celebrate the catch, but he wasn’t done.
On his final rep, the Steelers brought Green in motion across the formation as a lead blocker for a sweep. He caught outside linebacker Toby Ndukwe unaware and absolutely buried him to spring a big run down the right side.
There are some caveats here. Green was playing for — and against — the Steelers’ third-team defense. But he has always been an exceptional athlete for an offensive lineman. He’s a bit too small to play his natural position of guard in the NFL, and the move to center in his rookie season did not go all that well.
That’s left Green as the de facto No. 2 at the center spot behind starter Mason Cole, without a real pathway to playing time. That’s a tough pill for the player and team to swallow for a third-round draft pick. A move to fullback — even a part-time one — could make sense for a way for the Steelers to get more out of Green than they did in 2022, when he didn’t take the field for a single snap.
Or, maybe not.
“Probably not,” Green said, relaying the message he got from then coaching staff. “We’ll see. It was just something that Coach [Tomlin] wanted to see. … It might just be a today thing only.”
It might be a today thing only, but if Tomlin was waiting to see how Green looked as a fullback, then that might very well have been a successful trail run. The Steelers actually already had seen a bit of that look last season. He even caught a pass.
“Last year, Ravens week I was 42 (fullback Patrick Ricard), I was doing him on scout team, so I caught one last year,” Green said.
He didn’t seem to mind filling in at the spot where the Steelers currently have no one else. The only fullback on the roster, rookie free agent Monte Pottebaum, voluntarily retired early in training camp.
Green said he couldn’t hear the cheers from the crowd, but he did admit he enjoyed the experience.
“That was a good time. It was fun,” he said. “I felt like I was a kid again, playing backyard football.”
But in many ways, Green is still a lineman at heart. Asked if he preferred his reception or the bone-crushing block, he was very quick to answer: