New series we’re kicking off to take us throughout the summer. We’ve written about the best players in franchise history and the most underrated on the current edition but we’ve never gone through the list of most underrated position-by-position. Not the best ones to ever wear a Pittsburgh Steelers’ uniform but ones who fans have – and shouldn’t – forgot.
Rounding out the skill positions with tight end.
Eric Green/TE – 1990-1994
To be perfectly honest, Green was the clear front=runner for the underrated badge. Everyone loves Heath Miller and Elbie Nickel has managed to stay relevant enough in this modern age. Probably because Miller broke all his records.
Green wasn’t here for a long time but he was here for a good time. A first round pick by the team in 1990 out of Liberty, a small school gem, he burst onto the scene immediately. In his first three games, he found the end zone five times. A trio of them came in an upset win over the Denver Broncos, with Ed Bouchette including Green’s name in the headline.
It wasn’t until the regular season finale against Houston that Green racked up the yards. Previously, he had been a red zone threat. He put up seven catches for 105 yards in a loss but still showed his top talent. He was named AFC Rookie of the year.
Such success carried over into 1991, averaging over 14 yards per catch and finding the end zone six times. His best game that year came in a loss versus the Philadelphia Eagles, hauling in eight passes for 158 yards and a score.
After an injury shortened ’92 season, he had his best year in the NFL in 1993. Green led the Steelers – it wasn’t even close – with 63 receptions for 942 yards and five scores. In yardage, not even Heath Miller sniffed that high of a number. Green’s season, by the way, came after a snail’s pace start, catching one pass the first two weeks. From there, he exploded. 70 yards against the Bengals in Week 3. Two 100+ yard games and another that topped off at 99.
1993 was his first Pro Bowl selection, a feat he would repeat the following year. On surface level, the numbers weren’t as impressive, they dropped in every category, but still finished first in yards and second in receptions on the team.
You can only help but wonder what would’ve happened had Green stuck around for at least one more season. Would that have been enough to push the offense over the top and beat the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl? Or would Neil O’Donnell still be remembered as the goat?
Instead, Green spent a year in Miami, three in Baltimore, and a final one with the Jets in 1999. The numbers, at points, were still good, but his average dipped and he became more of a traditional looking guy, in stats at least.
Green had a rare blend of athleticism and size, at his peak, tipping the scales at 290 pounds. You could argue the team didn’t get that type of “move” tight end until Ladarius Green a little more than a year ago. Had there not been off the field issues associated with Eric Green, a drug suspension and messy holdout that led to him testing free agency, perhaps he would’ve stuck around with the team. And we would’ve gotten our answer to that question in 1995.
To play us off, a pretty cool feature video made by Liberty on Green’s college days. Plenty of great highlights to check out.