The Pittsburgh Steelers paid good money for a starting tight end over the course of the offseason when they suddenly found that they would be forced to find a replacement for Heath Miller, who retired with the second-most receptions in team history. Instead, they got second-year fifth-round draft pick Jesse James starting for the first 10 games of the season.
Ladarius Green was the big money man, paid $20 million over four seasons in spite of the fact that his prospect was based more on his potential future production than his actual body of work—which was not altogether unfair when you consider that he spent his four years in San Diego playing second fiddle to a future Hall of Famer at tight end.
You know his back story by now, of course. Green suffered an ankle injury that ended his 2015 season, causing him to have surgery in the offseason, but the recovery period took longer than projected, and he remained on the Physically Unable to Perform List for the first eight games.
In his first game back, last week, he played only 12 snaps, including two-point conversion attempts, but he came away with three receptions for 30 yards. He was targeted two other times on balls that he was unable to come down with.
I don’t have a snap count for him just yet from yesterday’s game, but I don’t suspect it was much more than we saw last week. In that game, he was targeted twice, and could not come up with either pass, though he probably would have had a difficult time with either of them.
His first target came with five minutes remaining in the first half, on second and seven, 15 yards out from the end zone. Ben Roethlisberger threw in his direction at the back of the end zone, though he may even have been trying to throw the ball away. The safety covering Green was closer to the ball.
His second target was far more tantalizing, and one could argue that he should have been able to do more to combat the defender to make a play on the ball, though I will say that initial and subsequent characterizations of the play as a drop are erroneous.
It was a nice route, but the defender also did a good job of breaking and making a play on the ball. Could Green have caught the ball? Should he have caught it? Well, you could point to the money he’s making, or you can point to the rust, and you can let either side shade your argument if you were so motivated.
Either way, I think it’s pretty clear that Green isn’t where he nor the team wants him to be quite yet, and it certainly doesn’t help that he banged his knee on his first snap of the year a week ago. Considering that the Steelers are on a short week, I wouldn’t expect to see many more snaps or significant production from him on Thursday.