Today is the first in a series of thoughts on specific Steelers’ players as we approach Training Camp in late July. I’ll be focusing on a variety of players whose personal success this season could determine the team’s overall success in 2016.
As easy as it can be to bash the Steelers’ Front Office at times for some free agent signings and draft selections over the years, credit must be given where it is due. When Steelers’ great Heath Miller announced his retirement several months ago, Kevin Colbert and company went to work.
What they came up with was a guy who has shown significant glimpses of greatness while playing behind future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates. Ladarius Green could, and I really want to stress could, be the weapon that Ben Roethlisberger has desired.
We could say that weapon was Martavis Bryant with his combination of speed and size but he’s not around for the season enter Green and his own combination of size and speed. At 6′ 6″ an 240 lbs, Green has the potential be a guy who does a little bit of everything.
Green has the ability to move the sticks on third down which is something that Miller was so adept at doing. His presence may influence Ben Roethlisberger to take fewer deep shots on third and short as well. One area where Miller started to show some decline was in his ability to stretch the field.
Green should have no such problem. He gets down the field as quickly as any tight end in the league and because of this, guys like Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton could eat opposing defenses alive underneath.
Perhaps Green’s biggest impact could be in the red zone and in two-point conversions. Roethlisberger hasn’t been shy about his desire to go for two after almost every touchdown and Green has to figure into those plans.
If Green has a downside it is found in injuries. He had offseason surgery on the ankle and is expected to be 100% when camp begins in late July. The ankle problem plagued him for most of last season. He’s also had some concussion problems as well and I don’t need to tell you the seriousness of those.
Green has tremendous upside though and that’s why the Steelers went out and grabbed him. He has averaged over 14 yards per catch for his career and saw his catch totals increase from 19 to 37 in 2014 and 2015. While the arrow is pointing up with Green, if he battles injuries and can’t stay on the field regularly then the Steelers’ offense will not be what it can be.
Jesse James will make positive strides in his second year but I don’t believe any of us should jump to the conclusion that he can be a comparable replacement for Green. This is why Green’s health is such an important piece to the Steelers’ Super Bowl puzzle.
Photo courtesy post-gazette.com
Stats courtesy pro-football reference.