For a period of six games, the Pittsburgh Steelers made moderate to liberal use of the services of free agent acquisition Ladarius Green at tight end, and in that span, he made some major contributions to their offensive efforts, from nearly his first snap to the last snap that he has taken, that last snap helping to secure their victory over the Bengals two Sundays back.
It was that final snap—on which he caught a third-down pass for 28 yards down the seam—that has left him sidelined since then—that is, until yesterday. Green took a hit to the helmet after establishing himself as a runner on that reception that caused him to suffer a concussion, but he returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday for the first time since the injury.
Green’s participation in yesterday’s practice likely indicates that he is in the fourth stage of the concussion protocol, which pertains to returning to football-specific activities. In this stage of the protocol, a player must demonstrate the ability to engage in all non-contact football activities without exhibiting recurring concussion symptoms.
If he practices again today, then it goes without saying that that is a strong sign of progress, though it is not a given that he would advance to the final stage of the concussion protocol, which consists of full participation in all activities—with, of course, the ability to do so without demonstrating further symptoms of a concussion.
The Steelers have had some recent concussion stories. Javon Hargrave missed one game due to a concussion, while B.J. Finney was a full participant in practice by the Wednesday after he suffered a concussion. Shamarko Thomas, however, spent a few weeks inactive after suffering a concussion and last week was placed on injured reserve. He had a history of concussions going back to college.
Green has also had a more recent history of suffering concussions, including a fairly serious one that he dealt with last season with the Chargers that caused him to miss time. There were also as-yet-unverified rumors that he was dealing with issues related to concussions this offseason, and perhaps as recently while he was on the Physically Unable to Perform List, but, again, that is an unsubstantiated report.
No matter what happens over the course of the next few days, of course, I certainly would not get my hopes up of seeing Green play for the Steelers in their regular-season finale against the Browns. With a player coming off a concussion who has a history of concussions, it makes no sense to rush him back to play in a game that holds no implications for the playoffs.
On the season, Green has caught 18 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those receptions have gone for at least 20 yards, which explains why he is averaging 16.9 yards per reception. While the other tight ends on the roster have filled in admirably in the nine games he has missed, none of them share his talents or natural speed as a pass catcher.