With No. 87 pick in the NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers got the center they wanted to replace retired Maurkice Pouncey.
It just wasn’t the one most draft experts expected.
The Steelers selected Illinois’ Kendrick Green, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound red-shirt junior. Green played as well as in the turn for Illini, but the Steelers will use him to anchor the middle of the offense.
Green has big shoes to fill with Pouncey retiring in February after 11 NFL seasons that included nine Pro Bowl picks.
He is ready for the challenge.
“Absolutely,” Green said. “He is clearly a good player. A Hall of Famer, if you ask me. I am definitely looking forward to coming in and helping to contribute as soon as possible. ”
While the Steelers selected Green, Senior Bowl standout Quinn Meinerz of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater remained on the board. According to most analysts̵
New Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm attended Illinois’ pro day and got away with confidence that Green is capable of playing all three inside offensive lineouts, including center.
“He sets the tone, especially in that position,” Klemm said. “It’s the beast’s belly. He comes out and plays with that behavior, and it carries the whole group. ”
The last time the Steelers used a pull pick at a center was in 2010, when they took Pouncey with the overall pick No. 18.
Green went to Illinois for the purpose of playing defensive tackling. On the advice of coach Lovie Smith, he was switched to offense in 2017, his redshirt season, after adding £ 30. He started 12 games on the left guard in 2018 and made 12 starts at that position in 2019. In 2020, Green was named a first team all-conference pick in the big ten when he started three times and centered and five on the left guard.
Green, 22, made 33 starts in a row during his three seasons in Illinois.
“He was an alpha in this program.” Said Klemm. “He’s going to fit in well here.”
Given a chance to address the offense in the second round earlier Friday, the Steelers made it to a roundabout by picking close end Pat Freiermuth of Penn State.
By choosing a narrow end so early, however, the Steelers lost two of the top five centers in the draft – Creed Humphrey and Josh Myers – before the round was over. Landon Dickerson, the top center in the class, previously went to Philadelphia.
Five tackles went before Freiermuth’s No. 55 pick. Jalen Mayfield was selected early in the third (No. 70) by Atlanta, and Brady Christensen went to Carolina two picks later. Minnesota guarded Wyatt Davis immediately before the Steelers’ turn.
Klemm did not anoint Green as the starting center, saying third-round picks will get a chance to compete with BJ Finney and JC Hassenauer in training camp.
It’s OK with Green.
“I think we’re fine,” he said. “I just want to get in and be a sponge and learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.”
By the way, Meinerz went 11 elections later to Denver.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review co-author. You can contact Joe via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
Sport | Steelers / NFL