While the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are still waiting on their opportunity to take their new ‘Ferrari’—free agent tight end Ladarius Green—for a spin, the league got a glimpse of what he might be able to do in a bigger role while Antonio Gates was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season.
He spent some of that time out himself, but in the three games in which he did play, Green caught 14 passes for 174 yards, averaging 12.4 yards per catch, and two touchdowns. In Gates’ first game back—against the Steelers—Green still caught five passes for 50 yards in his supplemental role.
Green ultimately ended up on injured reserve late in the year due to an ankle injury, and the injury required surgery early in the offseason. The Steelers were well aware of this fact and of the fact that it would require time to recover, so I’m sure they weren’t expecting much of anything from him during spring drills.
This sidelining has resulted in the tight end who signed a four-year, $20 million contract to fly under the radar a bit as far as discussion goes, and that is becoming a common view. Earlier in the offseason, Green was put on a list of the 10 players who “aren’t getting attention they deserve”, served up as the first player on the list.
The piece, written by Marc Sessler on NFL Network’s website, features a series of names of varying intrigue, but I believe Green is fittingly on the top of the list.
“Green has the chance for big numbers”, Sessler writes, “in Pittsburgh’s talent-rich offense”. He says that he “never truly took off in San Diego, but he’s a freaky pass-catcher who can also block”. Green is regarded as more of a pass-catcher than a blocker, but he will of course be tasked with both in Pittsburgh.
Sessler notes that “retired tight end Heath Miller averaged 88 targets per season over the past four years as a central part of Pittsburgh’s air attack”, and Green may see even more targets than Miller had in recent years. The Chargers lined Green up as a wideout nearly two-thirds of the time, and the Steelers will no doubt refrain from completely taking him out of his element.
Back in 2014, Green was featured on NFL Network’s ‘Making the Leap’ series, featured as ninth of 25 on the list. The article notes that a change in offensive system should be a boon for him, but that never amounted to enough to see him take away some of the targets that Gates would receive annually.
Gates saw 84 targets in 11 games last year, and 99 in 2014, with 116 targets the year before. Green has long. Green has long spent his career in Gates’ shadow, seeing only 63 targets last year, and just 23 in 2014. That is expected to change dramatically this year. He could see 100 targets from Roethlisberger in 2016.