With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Ladarius Green.
Ordinarily, this space has been reserved mostly for players in their second or third seasons who have yet to carve out a role for themselves, high-pedigreed players who have underwhelmed, or aging veterans who may be finding themselves pushed out the door and will need to fight to maintain their roster spots, but the signing of tight end Ladarius Green and the role that he needs to play for the Steelers this season is too great to ignore.
When veteran tight end Heath Miller retired following the 2015 season, Pittsburgh went out to sign Green, a young tight end entering his fifth season who has spent his career backing up a future Hall of Fame player in San Diego.
Green is not of Miller’s ilk, however, the latter more modeled after the tight ends of old, who were often glorified extensions of the offensive line, but Miller, of course, was also accomplished as a pass catcher as well, and made a Pro Bowl or two in his time, generally overlooked by the league in part because he actually blocked too much rather than catching 100 passes.
With the signing of Green, the Steelers are moving their offense more in alignment with what is becoming the norm, with the starting tight end functioning as much as wide receiver as anything. The fifth-year player has speed enough to account for vertical routes against just about any linebacker or safety in the league, and should be a fine addition to the team’s pass-catching arsenal.
But we have to see it first, and we haven’t yet. Green has spent the offseason so far rehabilitating an ankle injury that limited him last season and which required surgery. It’s currently uncertain whether or not he will even be ready to go for the start of training camp or if he will begin on the PUP List.
Even if he is ready to go, he will need to earn the confidence of the coaching staff that he has the ability to block well enough that they can trust putting him out there in that role. Losing Miller’s blocking ability in the run game would be a huge loss if Green can’t appropriately compensate.