Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers saw their budding star free agent tight end Ladarius Green break out for a career game. He saw a career-high 11 targets, which he turned into a career-high six receptions for a career-high 110 yards—his first 100-yard game—and a touchdown. And all of that production came after he dropped the first pass that came his way.
The Steelers finally saw what Green would really be able to do once he is properly situated in their offense and given the snaps and opportunities to produce. But so did every other team in the league, with those who are left on Pittsburgh’s playing schedule making particular note of it.
It will be interesting to see how opposing defenses respond to Green as an intermediate-vertical threat with Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball down the stretch, starting, of course, with the Buffalo Bills, who are the Steelers’ opponents for the afternoon. Obviously, it would not be wise to play him the way the Giants did a week ago.
Green’s catches did come in a variety of forms, including a fake bubble screen for a touchdown, a seam route for a big gain, and another big gain that was the result of some backyard ethics and the tight end being on the same page with Roethlisberger. He also made a couple of catches in traffic.
On the season, the Bills have been in the middle of the pack when it comes to playing against opposing tight ends. They have allowed 49 receptions to tight ends on 70 targets for 693 yards and three touchdowns. That comes out to roughly four catches for 58 yards per game, with a touchdown coming once every four games.
As I wrote earlier this week, the Steelers’ tight end group has produced 58 receptions for 642 yards and five touchdowns on the season, but those numbers have been on an upward trajectory since Green’s return. On his own, Green has caught 11 passes for 207 yards in the past four games, and he has seen limited snaps in the first three games.
In just the past two games, he has caught eight passes for 177 yards, including five passes that went for at least 20 yards. But Jesse James has also been contributing in the meantime, so the Bills will at times have to account for both, and the routes that they run can complement one another, drawing distinct coverages.
Opposing defenses at the very least should begin to understand that they need a player to be on Green to carry him down the field, and that he is liable to turn the corner and get upfield on you when your back is turned and the play begins to break down.
Is Green going to go off for another 100 yards and a score today? The odds don’t exactly favor that, though we do now know that he is capable of putting in such a game. And we also know that defenses had better start accounting for him in their game plans.