Devil’s Advocate: Green Deal An Obvious Mistake


You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Was it a mistake at the time for the Steelers to sign tight end Ladarius Green?

Many, including some in the local media, have already begun dubbing the signing of Ladarius Green last offseason as the worst free agent move in team history—if they hadn’t already done so last summer. There is certainly a case to be made in hindsight. But how bad of a deal was it at the time? There are several factors to consider.


One of them is what the Steelers knew and when they knew it about Green’s health. They knew he had three documented concussions, but also that he only missed time—a game apiece—from two of them. They also knew that he was recovering from ankle surgery, but they even underestimated how long that would take to recover.

At the end of the day, Pittsburgh bought Green for one injured season at a value of $6 million. That is only 20 percent more than the average yearly value of the contract, so it’s not exactly terrible in that regard. They basically got one-fourth of the contract—if you ignore the fact that he only played a third of their games.

The Steelers had high ambitions for what Green would bring to their offense, and logical ones. After a decade of the stalwart Heath Miller, they wanted to go in another direction, knowing they wouldn’t be able to replace him. Green was going to be the dynamic seam-stretcher that they never had before. It was a bold plan that, frankly, nearly worked out.

But they had reason to believe, perhaps not that it would not work out, but that it might not take much for that to happen. One more concussion and it seems as though his career is over now. It was a risk that they chose to take, but it’s up to the individual to determine whether or not, at the time, it was a risk worth taking.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

About the Author

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

    $6MM for 300+ yds & a TD (plus what he might have opened up underneath). Not a win given his limited availability, but surely they’ve paid more for less.

  • afrazier9

    They really screwed this signing up, and were ill prepared. I guess tomlin didn’t let his preparation be the guide. SMH

  • Never got a chance to thank you for condensing these articles, I was one of the ones clamoring for this, so thank you lol. As far as Green, I’m just glad it’s over with to be honest and we can move on with guys who are ready to work, UFAs and all. Best of luck to Green, post NFL of course

  • rayster

    I do NOT forgive the Steelers for WAITING ONE MONTH AFTER THE DRAFT to examine Green and make a neurological determination and player release.
    What a great draft for tight ends.

  • afrazier9

    I just don’t understand how you were prepared for the long snapper issue but not green being able to pass a physical.

  • Gluebucket

    This was a risk/reward signing, and I think we all knew that going in. There’s no doubt that Green was a valuable piece of the offense when he was on the field, and I think, had he stayed healthy, he could have broken a lot of TE records for the Steelers.

    But, it didn’t work out, and it only cost $6 million and it will be off the books after this year. Overall, not too bad.

  • capehouse

    The drafts best TE wasn’t available in rd 6?

  • Ray Powell

    I have no evidence for this, but I have the feeling that the Steelers weren’t told the whole truth.

  • Steeldog22

    I don’t like TEs that can’t or don’t block, regardless of price or injury history.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    That 20 million could’ve went to a decent defensive FA, just saying

  • Lil Smitty

    I agree with your post. It was a risk reward situation. Many players have had a history of concussions and played many years in the NFL. Troy and Tom Brady (according to Giselle) are prime examples.
    I am wondering if they might use JuJu the same way they had used Green or other move TEs. Another candidate would be Martavis as big and strong as he has become would send DCs into hysterics trying to cover him and AB on the outside.

  • Gluebucket

    Yeah, JuJu is a pretty good blocker supposedly, I could see him fitting into that role.

  • Per the American Academy of Neurosurgeons:

    “According to the University of Pittsburgh’s Brain Trauma Research Center, the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent per year of play. Among college football players, 34 percent have had one concussion and 20 percent have endured multiple concussions. Estimates show that between four and 20 percent of college and high school football players will sustain a brain injury over the course of one season. The risk of concussion in football is three to six times higher in players who have had a previous concussion.”

    Considering Green already had multiple concussions during his stint with the Chargers, his risk of suffering another lay between 12% and 100%. Note: I used the “four percent ‘low-end’ annual estimate” multiplied by the “three times” lower likelihood of recurrences to arrive at 12%. Multiplying the high end “twenty percent” annual likelihood by six [the high-end chance of recurrence] equals 180%, which I reduced to 100% because, after all, complete certainty is certainty.

    Since the “three to six times” recurrence risk was for players after a single concussion, and since Green had already sustained multiple concussions over a short span before coming to Pittsburgh, it could reasonably be assumed that Green’s likelihood of sustaining further concussions per season [with the Steelers] was MUCH higher that the low-ball number–it might arguably be said it was virtually certain,

    Therefore, either the Steelers were hugely irresponsible in signing Green to come to Pittsburgh, or they were completely misled concerning his medical history.

  • Robert E Lil

    Okay.
    They made a mistake – that certainly happens.

    But they compounded the mistake by locking-in on the “edge rusher” . They are stuck in the past as an organization

  • Dx2nc

    Green made critical catches in the 2nd Cincinnati game. I doubt the Steelers win that game without him and that game was huge. A loss there & the division title probably doesn’t happen. A lot of ifs I know but…6 million is no tragedy. Plus James got more playing time & that will help this year.

  • Matthew Marczi

    This portion of the offseason is voluntary. You can’t force a player to take a physical.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, they just got $14 million of that $20 million off the books.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The top tight ends were already off the board by the time they picked Watt, though, if that’s what you’re referring to.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Too little too late

  • george

    You bring up a good point. Better this happens now than after he took snaps away from a developing TE and THEN gets cut!

  • george

    You are right but he was in the concussion protocol for 6 weeks right? That wold scare the hell at of me if I were the FO.

  • Lee Foo Young

    To me, it was worth the risk.

  • steelburg

    I’m in the same boat my friend and I have been saying it from day 1. I don’t have direct evidence but I think there is some circumstantial evidence.
    1. Green signed the deal the team offered very quickly IMO.

    2. At the end of the year Green seemed standoffish IMO, IMO he seemed like he wasn’t going to retire no matter what the team said that makes sense to me because I think he would have had to pay some money back had he did similar to Chris Borland who retired from the 49ers. Since the team cut him I think he gets to keep whatever money he had owned to him.

    3. I honestly think Green wanted to play but I think he couldnt because of the concussions and I think he know that before he signed. I think he saw 1 last chance for a money grab and took it. He was a 4th round pick who made 2.55 million in his rookie deal and this past year with the Steelers he got 4.75 million for just signing his name. I can’t say I blame him because the team was a bit careless in doing some digging on him but I definitely think Green lied to them some where along the line about his health.

  • Aj Gentile

    For what Green could’ve brought to this offense, it was worth the risk.

  • Kevin Artis

    Whoever is the Steelers doctor, needs to be fired. Boykin and now Green.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You would think…maybe they thought that they saw positive signs, but then when he was finally tested it wasn’t the case. I really don’t know, but like most, I would have liked to have seen the tight end position addressed.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: the Steelers gave Green an average of 5 million dollars per year in a FA contract after he had NEVER been a #1 tight end. The Packers recently signed Martellus Bennett to a contract that averages 7 million dollars per year.
    There is an enormous difference between the caliber of TE Bennett and Green are respectively(not the least of which is that Martellus is also a very good blocker). Two million dollars is not an enormous amount of money in this case. Regardless of injury, this was a bad deal based on the numbers alone.

  • Big Joe

    Well, hindsight is 20-20 but I’m not sure there are a lot of people who weren’t concerned with his ankle and concussion history at the time of the signing. So, it seems those concerns were justified.

  • Carl Mendelius

    The real question is why Colbert didn’t draft a TE? Jesse James is not the answer, he is just a good second TE. Ben has one or two more years, you´ve got to give him all necessary weapons. I would have drafted Jake Butt from Michigan in the 4th round instead of Dobbs.

  • mokhkw

    By itself the Green signing wasn’t a “mistake” but it is part of what has become a worrying trend for the Steelers.

    Steelers were the only team to offer Jermichael Finley a contract after his spinal cord injury. Team Doctor Dr. Joseph C. Maroon cleared Finley to play while other team doctors didn’t. Finley rejected the Steelers offer and retired which is probably a lucky break for them.

    They traded for Levi Brown who had suffered a Triceps injury the previous season. Given the experience they had with Aaron Smith during the final years of his career you would think they would avoid signing another player with that injury but they did and Brown never saw the field after tearing the same triceps again in warm-ups.

    Traded for Brandon Boykin but apparently didn’t pick up on his hip problem which other teams apparently had some knowledge of.

    The Jarvis Jones pick I questioned because of his spinal condition and although he never missed games because of it I have to wonder if it was a factor in his play, notably his lack of bend, that meant he never reached his potential as a pass rusher.

    Doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in the TJ Watt pick after he missed 2 years with knee injuries tbh. Fingers crossed on that one. Same For James Connor because the treatment for Hodgkins (Chemo and Radiotherapy) does take a toll on the patient and there isn’t a lot of past data to go on. Eric Berry has made a fantastic comeback to this point but that isn’t always the case. But if I was to pick 2 players from this years draft that I would bet on doing everything possible healthwise then it’s TJ and Connor so that does give me some comfort.

    Green of course had a concussion history as well as coming off ankle surgery when he was signed. The ankle took longer to heal than expected and I guess we will never know if it was just the ankle or ankle+concussion that kept him out most of last year. And we now know how the concussion side of it ended up.

    From the outside looking in it seems as though the Steelers need to be a lot more critical in regards to evaluation of players health before signing them. Maybe it’s a case of hoping for the best outcome when the odds may not be that favourable to begin with.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I think you have to look at how it turned out to best understand the risk at the time. This board lit up at the original signing with mentions of his injury history and where he was currently. Maybe all of that wasn’t true, but the Steelers have to be able to get to the bottom of a situation.

    So, if they knew everything they needed to know, then they took the risk and lost, and then didn’t draft someone who could help, which seems odd.

    Or, they didn’t have or get all of the information and get duped. Neither situation feels very positive, but both seem to be on them.

  • Jamie P

    Green pulled a fast one on the steelers

  • Dean O’Brien

    Assuming everybody does well at WR in pre-season (a MASSIVE ‘IF’), I don’t think a trade involving Bryant or Coates, while highly unusual would be out of the realm of possibility. And you don’t know for sure yet what you have in Grimble?