I believe that Thursday’s game against the Colts was a big one for Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green, and not just because he had two big catches in the process. I think it came at the perfect time, or so I hope, to set up what the offense will likely need to become down the stretch in order to remain successful.
As those of you who follow the site are no doubt aware, the Steelers are having a sort of crisis when it comes to the wide receiver position, in that they do not have a sustainable number two target due to injuries putting a trio of them either literally or effectively out of commission.
So the offense is going to need Green to step into that role, not only in terms of what he does on the field, but in terms of how much he is on the field. Through his first three games since being activated from the Physically Unable to Perform List, he has only been playing about a dozen snaps per game or so.
His offensive coordinator said that he was on a sort of pitch count for the first two games—and he also acknowledged that he banged his knee on his first snap of the season—but his playing time did not shoot up on Thursday either. The caveat to that is that it was on a short week—and the Steelers only saw 54 snaps. So his 14 snaps actually represented over a quarter of the snaps.
The plan is obviously for that snap count and percentage to go up—way up. That is what they are paying him $5 million on average per season, to play a lot of snaps, catch a lot of passes, and block a lot of players. So we can reasonably expect that starting a week from today, we are going to see his playing time steadily tick upward until he is playing a healthy majority of the snaps. That is, of course, assuming that everything goes according to plan.
What will be interesting to see is how this affects the relationship with the rest of the offense. I can’t help but wonder if we will see a greater number of 12 personnel sets with multiple tight ends, even in the no-huddle package, with Green and Jesse James both on the field, the latter having acted as the starting tight end for the entirety of the 2016 season thus far.
But it’s really Green’s receiving ability that is needed more than anything, and he showed the sort of impact that he can have after catching two beautiful arcing deep passes on Thursday from Ben Roethlisberger, both of which went for over 30 yards.
He will have had about 10 days or so of rest between Thursday’s game and the game against the Giants, which will be key in both his physical and mental recovery after finally dipping his toes back into football. When play resumes, he should be ready to take on a bigger, and crucial, role in the offense.