At this point in the offseason, we find that training camp is just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.
After completing the Steelers’ 2016 NFL Draft class, it’s time to move on and look at the free agents that they brought in who make up the rest of the new faces on their 90-man roster. Although he is currently sidelined, placed officially on the Physically Unable to Perform list yesterday, there is no new face more important than that of tight end Ladarius Green.
After Pittsburgh endured the retirement of Heath Miller, the Steelers turned around and used some of that cap savings to make a move and sign Green, one of the higher-profile tight ends on the market, officially inking him to a four-year, $20 million deal on the second day of free agency, though the deal was already in the works the day before.
The signing of Green really is an interesting one because he does not represent the prototypical sort of tight end that the Steelers have historically relied upon. Unlike the Miller type of tight end, Green is actually a receiver first, and according to Pro Football Focus lined up on passing plays as a wide receiver about two-thirds of the time, second only to his San Diego teammate, Antonio Gates.
Now, the front office wouldn’t have gone out and signed a player like that unless they had the intention of utilizing him in a way that best accentuated his skill set, so you can rest assured that he is going to be running plenty of routes and receiving plenty of targets this season, and probably will be burdened less than might be expected with pass-blocking assignments. He may even see his run-down snaps somewhat limited as a result.
But before anything can be determined beyond speculation, he has to get healthy, as he is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery after suffering an injury that limited his 2015 season. It remains unclear how much longer it will be before he can take the field.
His inability to get those physical reps, depending on how long he is out, may be an impediment early in the season to his being able to be productive and on the same page as his quarterback. But he has the talent to be a dynamic piece of a high-octane offense, even with its missing pieces.