I honestly can’t believe I typed that headline in good faith. Losing Ladarius Green was a big blow and flop for Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin. There’s no getting around that. An understandable gamble but one that clearly did not pay off.
Through it all, the Steelers come out of it still looking good compared to the barren wasteland that is the AFC North. They have the most stable, consistent group.
Tight ends in Baltimore are dropping like the plague. And I wouldn’t bat an eye if the next one literally contracts the disease. Dennis Pitta’s glass hip gave out on him, Maxx Williams underwent knee surgery “no other football player has ever had.” Doesn’t sound promising. And yesterday, Darren Waller was suspended for the entire season. What. A. Mess.
If this was a bar, Jon Taffer would be shutting it down.
Cincinnati has the most talented tight end that’s proven something in Tyler Eifert. But good health has been fleeting for him too, never playing all 16 games in a season and limited to just eight last year. It’s hard for the team to trust him moving forward.
Cleveland took an important step in drafting David Njoku in the first round. He’ll have a successful career. But it’s rare for a rookie tight end to be the consistent, steady presence offenses demand them to be. Expect him to have a roller coaster inaugural year. So they’re out too.
In the end, it’s Jesse James who leads the division. In his third year, he’s already considered one of the most seasoned starters in the AFC North. He isn’t flashy like Eifert and – I assume – Njoku will be. But he’s stable, reliable as a blocker and receiver and should continue to improve. Behind him is David Johnson, the steady blocker.
None of this changes the fact the Green gamble failing to pan out was a bummer. It doesn’t reduce that sting. But if there is a silver lining, the rest of the North have their hands full with the position too.