The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the pessimist’s take on the following question.
Question: How much does the signing of tight end Ladarius Green improve the offense?
The signing of tight end Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20-million contract during the first day of free agency was a rare ‘splash’ for a Steelers organization who very rarely uses free agency to build its roster, but they deemed it a suitable time to utilize that tool now in order to help fill in the void left in the wake of the retirement of Heath Miller.
Anybody who is expecting Green to be Miller’s replacement, of course, would be fooling themselves, but it’s doubtful that many are under such a misapprehension. Even Green said himself that he couldn’t replace Miller. They’re really not the same sort of player.
And that could be an issue, or at least a change. Green isn’t much of a blocker. When analysts describe a significant tight end as a ‘solid’ blocker, that’s typically a euphemism for a player who is basically average at best, and that is what we saw out of him last season.
So in terms of impacting the offense, he’s not going to have much of an impact as a blocker, unless he is able to improve under the Steelers’ tutelage, which they will not doubt at least attempt to do. He could be in for a bit of an awakening in the backs on backers drill during training camp.
He will no doubt make his catches—his yards per routes run is among the better numbers among tight ends in recent years—but that will come at the expense of other aspects of the game for the Steelers, who already have a number of weapons to go around.
My biggest concern would be his ability to take on a greater workload, considering that he has spent his career behind Antonio Gates. Even last season, he played under 600 snaps. If the Steelers are anticipating that he will be an every down player, then that will be a significant step for him to take.
That is including the health factor, which is a concern. Green already has a concussion history, and he also suffered an ankle injury last year that hurt his production and from which he is still recovering from this offseason.
What sort of impact will Green have on the offense? I think that he will expand the Steelers’ boom-or-bust potential on offense. He has the capability of being explosive as a pass catcher, but he can also be a liability as a blocker, particularly in pass protection. The fact that he will probably not be the workhorse that Miller was is also to be taken into consideration here.