[Update]: According to Pro Football Talk and one other source, Ladarius Green is reportedly thinking about retirement due to a persistent problem with headaches. As of this writing I can tell you there is some legitimacy to this. Stay tuned.
On the surface, it would seem the Pittsburgh Steelers are ready for the 2016 season when it comes to their tight end position. Dig a little deeper and what you might find is not all that positive.
Since the great Heath Miller retired the Steelers went out and signed Ladarius Green, released Matt Spaeth and brought back David Johnson who resembles a stout fullback rather than a tight end. Second year tight end Jesse James is promising but is he capable of being a starting tight end right now?
I ask that question because Green remains on the PUP list with his surgically repaired ankle apparently still mending. To this point, Green has not done anything of a physical nature since joining the Steelers. He has little if any experience with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and is an average blocker at best.
That takes us back to James.
I don’t think it’s fair to him that fans and media types have already anointed him as Miller’s heir apparent. While technically he is, James isn’t in the same ball park as Miller as a receiver and more importantly a blocker. While Todd Haley’s offense has put up big numbers in the passing game, he still wants to run the ball with Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. The problem is that a strong Steelers’ running game relies on good tight end blocking and right now the top two guys don’t fit that bill.
Johnson has put on weight since returning but I’ve caught as many balls in the NFL in recent years as he has. Xavier Grimble is a guy the Steelers like but he’s had as many bad moments in camp as good.
The optimist in me says that James will prove to be a more than competent blocker and tremendous receiving tight end. Until I see that however I can’t go there. So that leaves this team in desperate need of a tight end capable of blocking well and especially in-line blocking.
While much of the attention has been focused on whether the Steelers’ secondary is going to be deep enough this season perhaps the attention should be at tight end. The cloud of doubt hanging over the position is larger than we think.
photo courtesy steelers.com