PITTSBURGH — Kendrick Green’s rookie year was not what anyone wanted from the Illinois product. A starter of 15 games at center for the Steelers, Green suffered a calf injury and J.C. Hassenauer took it the rest of the way from there. Part of the problem was that he was not only making the transition from college to the pros, but from guard to center.
In his college football career, Green notched only four games at center while compiling 29 games started at left guard. When the Steelers asked him to move to center, Green was not going to be one to turn that down. However, for a third-round pick that still had so much to learn at center, it was too much to be placed upon him right away. Green’s comfort level at guard was at a different level. Now in 2022, it appears that Green is moving towards playing back at guard and being the interior swingman for the Steelers.
“I have a lot more reps at guard throughout my career in football in general,” Green said. “I’m definitely way more comfortable, specifically at left guard. It feels like to me at least, I think, I feel better playing at guard.”
Green looks to be headed into a battle for left guard with Kevin Dotson. Dotson started last year at left guard away from his native right guard spot. However, now that Dotson is recovered from his ankle injury and has another year under his belt, he is ready to come in and compete. Green, too, is ready to come in and put his head down. For him, there is some extra cheddar involved here. He has a chip on his shoulder ready to prove something coming off his rookie year.
“I’m going to come to work,” Green said. “I know that Dot (Kevin Dotson) is going to come and do the same. We are both hard workers. It is going to shake out however it shakes out. We’re still on the field every day helping each other. There’s no bad blood. We know what time it is, but at the end of the day, we’re grown men. We’re going to act like professionals.”
The Steelers may still want to see what Green can bring to the table at guard. However, Green is trying to play wherever he can play. At times, that can be the best of both worlds. That is what Green is trying to find at left guard. In fact, center was so new to Green that he had not even practiced full-time at center prior to coming to Pittsburgh. Now, making that full switch, he feels far more comfortable playing within himself at guard.
“I want to play and I want to play where I can play the fastest,” Green said. “You play fast when you’re comfortable. I feel like to me, that’s at guard.”
There are a lot of reasons behind that sentiment for Green. However, the crux of it is that switching positions is really hard. The differences between guard and center are vast. Green had to account for a whole new set of variables and was thrown into the fire right away. That hurt him more than anything, and while a switch to guard might not be a fix-all, it can not hurt. Now back in his place with the most comfortability, Green thinks good things could be on the horizon.
“Playing guard and playing center are two completely different things,” Green said. “I was just coming into the NFL and it was really just a game of sink or swim. I was coming out playing hard. Whatever happens, it happens. I really just wanted to work on my technique. It takes time. The first time I ever practiced playing center was with the Steelers. That goes to show for itself. That’s not to make any excuses. But, if it were up to me, I want to play guard. I feel the most comfortable there. But, I still like center as well.”
If there was one issue that plagued Green most of the year, it was his hand usage. Because of his hand usage, he was unable to hold his gap and was pushed back into gaps at times. it was a key issue that Green focused on this offseason. Wherever he plays, that will cause him trouble. However, now at guard, it could be less hectic than it could be at center. That is what Green hopes translates into success.
“The thing I like about playing guard is that everything is a little bit more aligned,” Green said. “When you’re playing center, you have snap the ball back and that throws everything off. That’s something else I was trying to get used to. It’s really all about reps. You have to intentionally and consciously work at that thing.”
Green’s camp battle will be one to watch. The natural athleticism is all there for him as it stands. However, if his technique does not improve, there may not be much of a needle moved here. Still, if he can find his upside at guard, Green can still be a quality lineman in the NFL.