When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed tight end Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million free agent contact in March they were hoping he would provide quarterback Ben Roethlisberger another threat in the passing game that would help in overcoming the loss of veteran tight end Heath Miller deciding to retire and wide receiver Martavis Bryant missing the entire 2016 season due a suspension. However, Green has yet to practice with the Steelers since signing with them as he currently remains on the team’s PUP list as he continues to overcome offseason ankle surgery and possibly recurring headaches stemming from past concussions that he had suffered.
With there being no timetable currently set for when and if Green will ever be healthy enough to play, Roethlisberger was asked during his Monday session with the media if he foresees the Steelers running more five wide receiver sets on offense should his newest tight end remain unable to play for an even extended amount of time.
“I think we have the capability to do it,” said Roethlisberger. “We’ve got running backs that can kind of go out, we’ve got the capability and the personnel to be able to compliment whatever we have out there, or whatever we don’t have out there. So we just got to get on the same page with everybody and be able to go.”
During the early stages of the team’s offseason program, Roethlisberger stated he was certainly looking forward to working with his newest tight end, Green.
“I’m excited once I get him on the field to see what he can do,” Roethlisberger said this past June. “I’m always joking with him every day, ‘You’re like that brand new Ferrari that I have that’s in the impound lot or something and we’re just looking through the fence at.’ But he’s been communicating a lot, talking, very into everything from a mental side, so [I’m] excited about what he can bring when he gets on the field.”
On Monday, Roethlisberger was asked if he still believes he’s getting a Ferrari in Green even though the tight end is still unable to practice with the team with just three weeks remaining before the team’s regular season opener in Washington.
“I hope so,” said Roethlisberger. “Excited. Like I said, seen a lot of things from him, heard a lot of things from other people about him and so just still excited about the opportunity. [He’s] still communicating with me almost on a daily basis.”
Due to what are believed to be minor injuries, Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton was also forced to miss quite a bit of practice time during the offseason and training camp in addition to being forced to sit out the team’s first two preseason games. Because of that missed time, Roethlisberger was asked Monday if it’s been tough for him to build more chemistry with Wheaton with the wide receiver being sidelined so much over the course of the last several weeks.
“We haven’t had a lot [of chemistry] because he’s been out and [I’m] disappointed he was out of the practices because I felt like we had really grown a lot and the chemistry had grown a lot,” said Roethlisberger. “Even if it’s just his locker is next to mine, communicating next to each other talking, he spent so much time in the training room that he couldn’t be next to me talking about things and it was frustrating and disappointing because he wasn’t out there. But he’s out there now and he’s busting his butt to be out there.”
Roethlisberger was then asked what’s the next step he’s expecting Wheaton to take this year in terms of his growth as a wide receiver.
“Keep growing, keep learning, keep understanding defenses, keep undertaking what I expect and want him to do in certain situations and certain looks, and things like that,” said Roethlisberger. “Just keep understanding the game.”
The Steelers third preseason game of 2016 will take place Friday night against the New Orleans Saints and while Roethlisberger is expected to see his first exhibition action of the year in that contest, it’s still unclear as to whether or not Wheaton will make his debut as well. Should Wheaton wind up not playing against the Saints, it will give Roethlisberger time to work with a few of his younger wide receivers on the roster and most notably, Eli Rogers, who has played well in the team’s first two preseason games.
“Guys are just understanding the offense better and better,” said Roethlisberger of the Steelers younger wide receivers. “You know, hand signals, looks, things like that and that’s why I say to be out there this next game, to kind of start doing that stuff in live action, will be really good for us.”