The reveal of rookie jersey numbers holds a certain amount of intrigue for some fans, and perhaps particularly this year with the expansion of the range of numbers most positions would be permitted to wear. While no player selected an ‘usual’ number for their position this year, third-round center Kendrick Green’s choice certainly drew some attention.
That is because the former Illinois offensive lineman requested to wear the number 53, which had been donned for the past 11 years by Maurkice Pouncey, the future Hall of Fame center whom he’s hoping to succeed following his retirement earlier this offseason. As he confirmed to reporters earlier today, he wanted to wear that number, which he considers his own as well.
“They didn’t hand it to me. I’ve worn 53 since high school, and at Illinois as well, so I kind of requested it”, he said, “and knowing that he retired, I felt like maybe I’d get it. I was fully prepared for them to keep it off, but they let me have it. I’ve got big shoes to fill, so I’ve got to work towards that”.
Given who he is set to replace, he’s certainly not wrong about that. Pouncey made the Pro Bowl nine times during his 11-year career, including each season in which he played more than eight snaps. He is also a five-time All-Pro, and could well find his way into the hall of Canton one day.
It is interesting then that Green has primarily been a guard, having only started a handful of games at center due to injury, though that’s actually not significantly different from the story of Mike Pouncey, Maurkice’s brother, who was typically the guard, but he was able to get experience at center after staying in college one year longer than his brother did.
The Steelers would love for Green to have a career that mirrors the one of either Pouncey, quite frankly, but while he probably doesn’t run a serious risk of missing the cut this year, he still has a lot more immediate priorities to focus on, starting with learning the Steelers’ playbook, and ultimately winning the starting job.
His immediate competition for the job will be B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer, each of whom have had some starting experience with the Steelers. Finney spent the 2016-19 season on the 53-man roster, during which he recorded 12 starts. Hassenauer accrued his first season of NFL experience a year ago, and had the opportunity to start four games in 2020.
Neither, however, have ever been designated full-time starters in the past, though nobody else in the NFL has had the stability along the interior offensive line that the Steelers have had, with the same three starters from 2012 upon the drafting of David DeCastro until 2020, prior to which Ramon Foster retired.