2017 Offseason Questions: Should Steelers Spend Green To Replace Green?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Should the Steelers fill Ladarius Green’s roster spot with a veteran tight end through some means?

As the Steelers head into the 2017 season, they are already doing so without the full offense that they envisioned last spring when they signed Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million contract, of which he saw about a quarter of each leading up to his release with a failed physical designation yesterday afternoon.

That kinda-sorta leaves them without an actual starting tight end, and instead with arguably a trio of number-two tight ends in Jesse James, David Johnson, and Xavier Grimble. James has in Grimble’s prior absence been the primary filler of the void, but nobody is mistaking him for Green as a receiver, not Heath Miller—or even Johnson—as a blocker.

Johnson is certainly not a starting tight end. He is simply not dynamic enough, even though he can physically catch passes. He did, in full disclosure, catch a one-handed two-point conversion last year, which amused me greatly, and which I try to use as a cover image for articles as often as possible; see above.

Grimble has been around for two seasons now and yet still has much to prove. For as often as he is said to have flashed in practice—and he has flashed a few times in games as well—he lacks the consistency to be a reliable option.

So there are two paths to choose from here: do you go with the tight-end-by-committee approach, which includes the utilization of the tackle-eligible, which is what they did frequently last season, or do you attempt to address the concern by some means?

This can be accomplished in multiple ways, or perhaps tiers. You can scour the currently-available free agent market, the best of which might be Gary Barnidge or Larry Donnel, with Rob Housler recently becoming available; you can trade for a tight end; or they could hope for the best that they can scavenge a quality tight end as a roster casualty later this summer. None of these solutions are ideal.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Michael James

    Tough question. I think that no FA TE would be an upgrade over J.James this season. In my opinion the best bet is hoping that James makes a significant jump towards being a capable #1 TE (let’s not forget, that kid is still only 22 years old).

  • CP72

    I miss Heath Miller. That being said, toward the end of his career he was little more than a check down option for Ben. I say roll with Jesse and let him be that guy.

    Anyone you find on the market now is either past his prime or never had one to begin with.

  • MattHat121

    Yeah, it’s slim pickings out there in free agency. A trade for a TE might be tough because teams would know Steelers are desperate and would ask for quite a lot in return. Could still try to target a veteran on a team who drafted a replacement. (Obviously what PIT should have done).

  • Paddy

    James’ blocking is improving rapidly they seem to be on board with the idea that he is the man. They should have know about Green before the draft, maybe they did just like they knew about Greg Warren.

  • myrique21

    I can’t agree more. Plus, Grimble is a lot better than some of us thinks he is. It’s always a possibility that one of our undrafted TEs shine in training camp. The Steelers have never used a TE as a featured pass catcher and we shouldn’t start now.

  • DoctorNoah

    True and not true. WR’s can spread defense but a TE has a versatility that a WR doesn’t have in terms of RPO’s, audibles from run to pass or vice-versa, and bringing in a heavier defensive look to match 21, 12 personnel. This creates mismatches, rolls safeties up, allows wider throwing windows downfield, etc. on any given play, a TE can be either an in-line blocker, a WR, or a safety valve that blocks and then releases. A different kind of chess piece entirely

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I’d probably try and bring in Barnidge on the cheap and let him and James fight for the starting job. Been saying it since before the draft but I am comfortable with James as the starter. Still wouldn’t have minded them grabbing a TE in the 4th or 5th though.

  • Steeldog22

    Agree. People forget Grimble had two big catches for TDs in two big games last year vs Bengals and Ravens. Our TEs are fine given the rest of our receiving core. James can do what he can do, hopefully other teams forget about Grimble leaving him open, and we look at the other guys we have in camp. It not like Spaeth was Tony Gonzales. So many hot “TEs” nowadays are really bigger receivers who still can’t block and play split part of the time anyhow. Check camp cuts if we have to.

  • Steeldog22

    Cept a lot of TEs nowadays are crappy blockers.

  • Paddy

    Barnridge can’t beat out James he’s not as good and is 10 years older

  • VaDave

    His best block of the season was in the 2nd Miami game on Brown’s first touchdown. Still, as often as we run counter plays, I wish he had a little more sand in the pants when taking on a linebacker.

  • VaDave

    We have too many WRs. Maybe there’s a team that has too many TEs. You make a deal, but that ain’t happening.. Frankly, I can’t remember the last time we swapped players with another team. Draft picks? Yes. Draft picks for a player? Yes. Player for player??? I can’t remember.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    At this point there is nobody available that is head and shoulders above anyone currently in our roster.
    I would say let’s roll with what we have – including T eligible.
    Then address it in the draft!! Oh wait, that’s not for another year right?

    What’s that you say? Having the security of a good young 3rd string QB will compensate for the lack of a pass catching TE? Good thing we passed on Butt and Kittle in the 4th huh?

    Perhaps the plan is to convert Dobbs to a TE?

  • 20Stoney

    I agree, I’d like to see what he has left. He did catch a lot of balls on horrible offenses in Cleveland

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    You know what? I don’t care if we have to pony up some 2018 picks for a truly capable TE in trade- this team is SB capable NOW.
    If we weren’t willing to make a move in the draft, then we have to do so now.
    Either that or just not address it, use what we have, and use more one TE sets combined with more WRs.
    It’s not the end if the world, but it is a shame both for the team AND Green.

  • Terrible Towlie

    is Clay Harbor still available? a decent TE

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yeah this works. But now we are in a position where we are counting on a guy who is one piss test away from gone.
    Let’s hope JuJu gives us that Red Zone presence that a pass catching TE would!!

  • Terrible Towlie

    never? ever heard of Eric Green?

  • Terrible Towlie

    Odom’s time to shine….physical freak,,,could be just what is needed

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    You know that’s funny you say that because as soon as I read that I was thinking that (just as we go ‘big’ with a T eligible) WR could use either MB or JuJu as a TE when we want to go max pass!!

  • Steel Realist PAul

    So.. why didn’t the Steelers draft a TE again??

  • DoctorNoah

    Uh, better than a WR, or an RB.

  • capehouse

    What about a trade?

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    You mean you aren’t happy about drafting a 3rd string QB instead in the 4th!? Sarcasm.

  • Applebite

    Go 4 wide…..

  • Terrible Towlie

    and he has decent hands

  • Terrible Towlie

    call Odom a draft pick if it makes you feel better….I think this guy is going to supprise a lot of folk
    he looked great in his highlight video, and its coachings job to get him to play like that all the time

  • steelburg

    I agree. It’s really as simple as you just put it IMO, there aren’t any legitimate options out there that would be worth bringing in and taking snaps away from the current young group that we have in Grimble and James. I am a fan of Larry Donnell he is still under 30 years old and could possibly make an impact considering hie the Giants used him. But he has had a neck injury that made him miss some time and if I were the Steelers I would stay away from players with head and neck injuries players who usually start getting those aren’t that far from retirement IMO. I would not be against Donnell coming into camp at the vet minimum though.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Barnidge or none. As far as fa’s.

    Matthew or Alex has a team ever traded their second round pick the year they drafted them?

  • AndyR34

    Not all are better. If JuJu really learns to block like Hines, we will be OK.

  • AndyR34

    Jump into bed and cover my head! LOL!

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Can’t block like ward anymore. Get penalized.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Barnidge is better than grimble and Johnson. As I said right after the draft, it wouldn’t be a fight for Jesse. But a fight for green and grimble. Now it’d be barnidge vs grimble.

  • DoctorNoah

    Downfield, yes.
    Against a rushing linebacker, no.
    These are totally different positions and kinds of blocking. You cannot compare them. WR and TE are just not at all equivalent. We are talking the difference between 250-260lbs vs 200-220…

  • SilverSteel

    I like both our udfa guys. They have the physical attributes. Now to coach them up quickly. I think at least one udfa TE mAkes it to 53

  • SilverSteel

    I bet jjss blocks every bit as good as green

  • SilverSteel

    I loved Eric green. Awesome size and soft hands.

  • Jim Foles

    Juju is our little TE..

  • Jim Foles

    Dropped his shoulders and punished players.

  • Nick Webb

    I’m not advocating for or against this idea, but since the team seems to be set at pass catchers and are looking for capable blockers, would Will Johnson (previous Steelers, recently released by the Giants) have a place in camp? Might be overkill will Rosie Nix and David Johnson, but they all can block pretty well.

  • AndyR34

    Technique, technique, technique…you don’t usually need to stone a linebacker; a good shield can accomplish almost as much.

  • D.j. Reynolds

    You just made me realize that the abbreviation for Free Agent Tight End = “FATE”. It may very well be our fate, but I think Jesse James is our #1 guy (at least) this year and maybe beyond.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I realize Barnidge is older and I believe James will keep getting better. That being said, where is that sure fire depth or dependable TE in a two TE set? Barnidge has a 1000 yard, nine TD season just two years ago, even with being on the Browns. For the right price and a one year deal, why would this not make sense?

  • Thomas

    I don’t know if it was just the level of competition but I watched Phazan Odom’s college highlights and He looked surprisingly nifty after the catch for a 6’8 & 4.79 guy…with good hands and some strong pancake blocks. He won’t be the type of TE Green was but I can see him being a backup options with all the right traits for an inline guy.

  • Michael Conrad

    Just a jackas8 move not to draft a TE knowing full well Green was toast. Now let me say this and again this is the difference between Tomlin and Belichick . The young rookie Odom. I would push this kid hard see what he has as he is the closest to Green as a receiver does not have his speed. . Belichick started a lacrosse player at WR.last year.

    I can’t see bringing in a FA as they are no better then what they have. I think James and a combo of someone else will do this year. What a screwed up deal not to pick one in the fourth round. Dobbs was not and is not the answer at QB maybe even as a backup . A TE in the fourth could have been a step above James in the long run. Next year they will take a TE in the first round and pick on a good QB.

  • Russ Stauver

    Stand pat. As with receivers, year 3 is usually when the light bulb comes on. Grimble and JJ are entering year 3. Take the savings and get another linebacker.

  • Rocksolid20

    No we haven’t featured a TE but Heath was always
    there to bail Ben out when in trouble .

  • Rocksolid20

    Eric and Martavis would have been good friends .

  • Jeff Peterson

    Can you picture it though. Let’s say a team wants Sammie Coates and has too many quality TEs. Can you imagine that conversation with the TE.

    GM: “Well so and so, we just traded you.”

    TE: “Oh no! To who?” (with really sad expression)

    GM: “To the Steelers.”

    TE: “Well it was nice knowing you. Just throw out my locker stuff, I’ll replace it.” (he leaves without another word, he doesn’t even go home, he goes straight to the airport grinning from ear to ear).

  • Frank

    To be fair that “lacrosse” player was drafted in 2011, so he had experience in the nfl, its not like they just pulled a rookie out of thing air and was like “now you play football”. Which is your suggestion with odom, who although played football is a rookie, a raw one at that (at best). Can’t say i don’t disagree with you on that given the circumstances the steelers should have drafted a TE, but they didn’t and must have a plan.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I was less happy about taking a receiver in the 2nd to be honest with you. I didn’t necessarily want a QB but they are way more valuable so taking a shot on them later in the draft doesn’t bother me too much. That being said, yes I would trade Dobbs out for a TE.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I dunno, when Barnidge was in his prime he was better than James, at least as a pass catcher. I think there is a chance he could rekindle something with Ben.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Not to mention if Coates returns to his early season form where he looked like the second coming if Bryant.. Then we have two Bryants. Green and any other te becomes unimportant then.

  • Well, we do have that new big TE. We’ll see if he makes the grade. Jesse James is coming along well. Granted, none of them are Heath Miller, but then again, who is? I think we have enough talent at the WR position, and we have a lot of WRs too. Also, great FB in Nix as a blocker. There aren’t any really good TEs left on the open market. We should be okay this season even without a featured TE. Who knows? Maybe James will have a break-out season. Stranger things have happened.

  • Darth Blount 47

    It’s tragically hilarious…. when I take a quick gander over at the list of available TE’s on a site that lists such things… my eyes immediately are drawn to the name: “Ladarius Green.”

    It’s almost as though this whole last 14-month saga, was but a dream within a dream. When in reality, it was much closer to ‘A Nightmare on Art Rooney Ave.’

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yeah I was thinking we would swap picks for a FA TE but honestly I don’t see anybody worth it on the market now.
    Barnidge maybe but I’m not sure he is really a step up from what we have already!

  • Rotten Sircus

    I think the “Outlaw” Jesse James is ready. I wouldn’t go after any veteran TE’s !!! IJS …

  • SoCal Steeler

    I’d bring in Barnidge as a 1 year stop gap but if we can only sign one position I’d rather it be MLB. I don’t have the same faith in Kelsey, Galambos or Steven Johnson for that matter that the Steelers seem to.
    I’d like to see both positions addressed though.

  • RickM

    And we lost a 2018 draft pick on the Gilbert transaction. So even if there was someone worth going after, I can’t see them using one of the remaining picks to trade for him.

  • Ryan Alderman

    Agreed, excellent points.

  • Rodney JEune

    Come on imagine Juju vs Burfic …the kid is 20…give him time to finish his puberty

  • Applebite

    Give James the opportunity to prove his worth. I wouldn’t bother to bring in another TE in FA, because most of them are EOC anyhow. So you’d only get a couple of good seasons at best. If anything, I’d seek a trade before signing a FA TE at this point.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yes, sadly we do better with drafting than trading!!!

  • Terrible Towlie