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The Pessimist’s Take: Sidelined Tight End Signing

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: Will the recovery time of tight end Ladarius Green be an impediment to his ability to succeed in the offense this year?

The Steelers went out and spent good money this offseason in order to bring in free agent tight end Ladarius Green in order to fill the void left by the retirement of 11-year veteran Heath Miller. Whatever cap savings were gained from the latter largely went toward the signing of the former.

With that signing, however, also came with a caveat: the fact that Green was recovering from an ankle injury that he suffered in the middle of the season, labored through, and eventually had surgery on in the offseason. He continues to rehabilitate from the surgery, which means that he has been watching the OTAs from the sidelines—or more accurately, assisting tight end coach James Daniel in carrying out the drills.

There is plenty of information for Green to digest at this time of year that doesn’t need to come from on-field learning. But it would be foolish to deny that he does have a lot to learn coming into Pittsburgh. Not only is he entering an expanded role the likes of which he has not previously experienced, he is also coming into a different sort of offense that is somewhat unfamiliar to him.

The Chargers, his previous team, used their tight ends at wide receivers at a higher ratio than any other team in the league. While that was largely dictated by the nature of the tight ends on their roster, it is also true that it was a part of their style, and it is the Steelers’ style to have strictly two-way tight ends.

Green is going to have a bigger role in blocking this year than he has had in the past, particularly as the likely first option, and that is certainly something that has to come from hands-on experience. Given that the tight end position is traditionally a key safety valve outlet for the quarterback, it is also imperative that he builds a physical rapport and timing with Ben Roethlisberger.

This is not a great concern right now in late May, but if Green’s recovery time lingers on into training camp, there is no reason that it could not result in an adverse effect in terms of his ability to seamlessly integrate into the offense at the start of the season. Time will tell whether or not this actually becomes an issue. Right now it’s too early to say.

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