It’s obviously not a full return on their $20 million investment but hey, it’s a start. While this wasn’t Ladarius Green’s first game as a Pittsburgh Steeler, this was his first one with a sizeable impact.
He had catches of 32 and 35 yards in last night’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, the first Steelers’ tight end since at least 1994 to do so. Green spoke to reporters after the game and was, obviously, elated to finally be making the impact he’s been waiting months for, held off by a grueling rehab to get medically cleared again. But he recognizes how far he still has to go.
“I gotta motivate myself,” he told reporters after the game. “I still gotta work. I still have a ways to go. You see guys like Le’Veon and AB out there making the plays they make, you want to make plays for them.”
At times, Green looked a little bit slow and hesitant and admitted he’s still fighting some nerves.
“I’m still nervous doing some things but I gotta work past that.”
Performances like Thursday night’s are a great start to doing just that. And it earned the notice of his teammates too, like Le’Veon Bell, who even complimented Green on his blocking.
“He’s an all around receiver, er, tight end,” Bell said, having to correct himself about Green’s lateral position though so far, he’s masqueraded as a receiver. “I think he’s a guy who is really good blocking on the edge. He made a great block on one of the pitches I cut back in. He’s got plays down the field, he can run past people. He’s definitely going to be very valuable weapon for us. I think they’re going to do more things with him the more comfortable he gets with the offense.”
At first glance, Green definitely seemed like he got more involved in the offense from a complexity and layers standpoint. He was asked to block for basically the first time this season, even in pass protection, which drew a flag on third down that negated a conversion. He’ll have to work to get to the level Jesse James is at, which, while improving, still isn’t ideal. But James had a key block on one of Ben Roethliberger’s touchdowns tonight, sealing outside linebacker Erik Walden up the arc and keeping the pocket clean.
As funny as it is, despite Green having several years of tenure on James, that’s a guy he’ll have to look to and learn from of how to be a complete fit in this offense.
But Thursday was a great start and just a taste of what Green offers this offense. With no one else in this group emerging as the team’s #2 receiver, the job could be snatched up by Green.