In Ladarius Green, Steelers Sign On Not Just To A Player But A Philosophy

When the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to sign tight end Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million contract at the end of the first day of the open free agency period in 2016, I believe that they not only signed a talented player, they also signed on to the viability of a certain philosophy that they had not really embraced before.

As though it were not obvious, Green represented a different sort of player than the Steelers were known to employ out of the tight end position. Sometimes seemingly one of the few remaining relics of a bygone age, Pittsburgh always relied upon their tight ends first and foremost to serve as an extension of the offensive line as blockers, rather than a part of the receiving corps.

Green was never going to be that type of tight end. Not that he is inept as a blocker, but he was not built to be an in-line blocker on a regular basis, nor would such a style mesh with his skill set. He was the sort of player who was going to present mismatch opportunities for the offense over the middle not only due to his size, but also due to his rare speed at the position allowing him to stretch the seam and push the play vertically.

We even got an opportunity to see what sort of impact he could have in that regard last season in the six games that he did manage to play in between his recovery from an ankle injury from the year before and a concussion that ended his career with the Steelers—and perhaps with the NFL as a whole.

In limited snaps in those six games, Green caught a total of 18 passes, and nearly a third of them—five—came in an explosive fashion, falling between 30 and 40 yards. He made important plays at important times in that limited timeframe, not even fully healthy, and I think it gave the Steelers a taste of what the offense could look like with that type of player in the fold.

That is why I believe that the experience with Green will not have soured the team on adding another player of a similar skill set in the future. They very nearly had a prime opportunity to do so in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft before the Browns traded up to one pick ahead of them to draft David Njoku, but we may never know if they would have actually taken him if he were there.

To be clear, it is not by any means an essential ingredient in today’s offense to employ a move tight end in the vein of Green and Njoku. It is not a necessity for the Steelers to add such a piece this year, next year, or 10 years from now. But after getting a taste for it, even with the bitter aftertaste, I’m inclined to think that they will want more.

Remember, the higher-ups spoke on more than one occasion about how pleased they were with what the former fourth-round pick was able to deliver on the field when he was healthy. He averaged more than three yards per route run, which is exceptional, albeit in a limited sample size.

And they also saw how Ben Roethlisberger liked to use him. He was very frequently targeted based on the number of snaps, which shows that their quarterback likes that role in the offense. I don’t think there is any greater incentive to seek a replacement at some point in the future.

About the Author

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

    >>> That is why I believe that the experience with Green will not have soured the team on adding another player of a similar skill set in the futureGreen’s problems weren’t his skill set. He added an extra dimension to the offense that made them that much more dangerous. The problem with Green was obviously his health. They really should not have planned the off-season as if he wasn’t going to be around, and if he was, then that was gravy (same as they did with Bryant.)

  • Steel B

    Enough with the Green articles already. He’s gone. Move on.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I’m not jumping on the Steelers or anything, I’m just saying choosing Jake Butt late could have ended up being a good pick, getting a year out of Barnidge or even giving the jags a 6th rounder in the 2018 draft for Ben Koyack are low radar moves, that could pan out nicely. If they don’t pan out, they aren’t that painful really.

  • walter

    I went back and watched the tapes on his receptions and he was wide open most of the time. Why was this guy so hard to cover? I guess he just finds the soft spots. But it would seem since he is not really a blocking tight end, that teams would have eventually adapted to him and put a defense on the field that could cover him.

  • Jim Foles

    One crack to the head and green is done for the season… move on.

  • Matt Manzo

    This a topic I wish we dove into more! To me, going from Heath to Green was extreme difference in styles and offense. There was no transition or developing, it was just Heath to Green.
    I thought it was pretty ballsy! And it looked great when he was on the field. I don’t think they’ll abandon it, but just like a mobile QB, you’ll have to find a move TE that has some durability.

  • walter

    even a glancing blow

  • Big White

    Respectfully disagree there Marczi. Nowhere did i see the words Martavis Bryant in the piece. If i remember correctly, Green was signed just before Bryant’s suspension, which many here speculated was because the Steelers knew of Bryant’s fate before the press. Add in Heath Miller’s retirement and i view it as an attempted fix to two issues. Just my two cents.

    Bryant Suspension March 12th & Green signing March 9th respectively.

  • Jaybird

    Amen bro . That train has left the station.

  • VaDave

    Most are crediting his last pass as the play he was concussed. Earlier in the game he was blindsided by #90, a vicious shot from behind. Should have been flagged. Green scrapped himself off the field, but was definitely rocked. This was no means a glancing blow.
    That said, while I appreciate the copy, a new story line might be nice.

  • walter

    was it a head shot?

  • budabar

    Let it go guys, it’s time to move on

  • Matthew Marczi

    It really wasn’t about Green.

  • Matthew Marczi

    How is that relevant to this article? The Steelers have already moved on from Green. This is about the move tight end position as a whole and whether the team will continue to explore that role in the future.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Did any of you people actually read the content of the article? It’s not about Ladarius Green. It’s about move tight ends.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You don’t sign a player to a $20 million contract just because one guy got suspended for a year. They liked what Green could bring to their offense and that would have been true regardless of other issues. They liked him coming out of the draft.

  • Steel B

    We’re sick of seeing his name. Please stop.

  • Big White

    You do when you have a shot at a Super Bowl. Martavis is also reportedly the reason Sammie Coates was drafted. Plus, it’s the year’s salary & the signing bonus to be worried about because guaranteed money is much different than the life of the deal. Green’s final hit will be what, 7 & some change combined?? Not saying they didn’t like him, but many of us were a little perplexed at 6 per for the #2 in San Diego. It looked a little hasty.

  • Madi

    If only there was some way you could control what you looked at on your computer screen.

    I hope you were being sarcastic. Because I wouldn’t take that level of self-entitlement from a child.

  • Madi

    The article is literally about moving on.

  • Bill

    This article continues the mantra of this site that teams no longer need multi faceted tight ends; we need another big wide receiver who does not block at the tight end position. Well there are times when that is true but the fact is you can always insert another wide receiver to give those attributes when needed. What you need is a tight end who does it all that is; has some size, blocks for the run game, runs good routes, catches the football, and makes the defensive back pay when contact is made. The problem is that pundits look at The Gronk and laud the match-up problems that he creates. What they fail to realize is that he is not a “tight end lite”; he is really and old time tight end who does it all: that is what creates the march-up nightmares for the defense. They’re caught between a rock and a had place because he enhances both the run and the pass! He’s freak of the football world. You’re not going to create another Gronk with a hybrid wide receiver. The thought that tight ends like Jason Witten are obsolete is just a manifestation of the modern philosophy of “What’s new is always better”. As for me, give me John Mackey.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Bryant’s suspension was only one factor. They needed (and still need) a new starting tight end. So they signed Green.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The guy signed a four-year contract to be their starting tight end and was released after one year. You think he’s never going to be mentioned, let alone a mere two days after he was released–in an article that wasn’t even directly about him?

  • Big White

    Why? You got AB, Martiavis, Coates, Hamilton, and JuJu as potential weapons, unless they lost Hamilton and i’ve been away for a while. What the heck is wrong with that vertical threat? Smells like you need the opposite with James-type, no?

  • VaDave

    Not that I recall.