Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert attacked free agency head-on this offseason as he signed former San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million contract on the first night of the new league year. Even though Green spent his first four years in the league with the Chargers, Colbert reiterated once again Friday morning in an interview on Steelers Nation Radio that the organization has been fond of the young tight end dating back to ahead of the 2012 NFL Draft.
“He was a guy that played behind a great tight end in San Diego and he really never had his opportunities,” said Colbert of Green, who started his first training camp with the Steelers Thursday on the Active/PUP list due to him still rehabbing a surgically repaired ankle. “We actually liked him when he came out Louisiana-Lafayette and we knew about him, we liked him them, we considered drafting him back then. I cant remember exactly who we took in that draft, that round, but of course you trace those guys and when they become available, then you want to make your move to get them and we just felt that he’s the kind of free agent that we like to sign in unrestricted free agency. Maybe the younger guy that still has some kind of upside. When you make the commitment to him like we did, we’d rather do that with a younger guy that can still get better and in his case he really hasn’t had the opportunity to show maybe what all he can do.”
It might be a few more weeks until Green has an opportunity to show what he can do in Pittsburgh as even though Colbert said Friday his rehab appears to be on schedule, he isn’t ready to put a timetable on when the tight end will finally be able to practice with his new team. Even so, Colbert likes what Green has to offer the Steelers at the tight end position even though it will be hard for him to live up to what the recently retired Heath Miller did during his 11 years in Pittsburgh.
“What he brings that we’ve never really ever had at that position, even with Heath, as great as Heath was, Heath wasn’t a vertical threat and Ladarius is, because for a tight end, he’s exceptionally fast,” Colbert said. “So again, the sooner we can get him out here and get him acclimated to us, and get Ben acclimated with him, the better, but we have to be patient with the injury and it’s something that we anticipated having to do.”
Athletic tight ends have been the rage in the NFL for the last several seasons so the Steelers getting one now in the form of Green should certainly add another dimension to the team’s offense. The team can line him up all over the place on the field and as result take advantage of any personnel mismatches with him in the process. Most of the linebackers currently in the league will have a chore covering Green down the field and the same goes for several safeties. First and foremost, however, Green has to get healthy and back on the field and begin working with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“We knew it was going to be close to training camp when he was going to be available to play for us, or even practice for us,” said Colbert. “So we knew what the surgery was, how long it was going to take and really we anticipated that possibility of him being on PUP. So really, he’s really kind of right on schedule and we’ve got plenty of time to get him up and running, and he’s improving as he has throughout the spring. We just hope it continues and we can get him out here sooner than later.”