Steelers Evaluated Ladarius Green’s Medical Incorrectly, Not His Talent

Ladarius Green was a good football player.

Unfortunately, he was rarely a healthy, good football player. You, just like I, are reeling in the news over his release. One year into his four year contract, free agent deals the Pittsburgh Steelers are careful to hand out, making Green – through no fault of his own – arguably the biggest flop in franchise free agent history. Even more than Sean Mahan.

Unlike Mahan, or most of the other names in the conversation, it wasn’t the team missing on his talent or not fitting within the scheme. It was strictly a medical whiff, another in a line of questionable decisions.

When on the field, there’s no doubt Green proved his worth. He was the big playmaker downfield, even highlighted in his final catch as a Steeler, a clutch 28 yard reception on 3rd and 8 to preserve a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He averaged nearly 17 yards per reception and found the end zone once, running down the seam against the New York Giants.

It was all the things evident on tape during his time with the San Diego Chargers. What was not on tape, however, was the issue. Ultimately, Green’s concussion history will likely end his career. And the Steelers knew that risk when they signed him. Or at least they should have. This tweet from Ed Bouchette suggests the Steelers ignored that risk in favor of the on-field talent he brought to the table.

Bouchette, to his credit, has been – maybe not loudly ringing – but humming the alarm bells about Green’s situation for a long time.

Green began 2016 on the PUP list. The team still is adamant it was solely because of offseason ankle injury, even as the media suggested otherwise. It led to a bizarre saga we still haven’t gotten a clear answer of and probably never will. Green returned and played well, before suffering another concussion against the Bengals and missing the rest of the year.

That part, to be fair, is out of the Steelers’ control. But it was in the equation of known risks the team had when they signed him to his four year deal. It’s impossible to know what homework they did, what they knew, and how the conversation went, but the organization clearly was burned by rolling the dice on Green’s medical history.

A history that was lengthy before the team signed him. We know he suffered three concussions before the team signed him, including two in an 11 day span in 2015. I – the random blogger in the Internet world – was privately told some scary stuff about his concussion history and how bad things got for him at its worst. The Steelers proceeded with the hope it’d all be ok. It is not.

They screwed up. Plain and simple.

Green is another name of weird and close-to-the vest injuries. Last year, Carnell Lake admitted at a Steelers’ fantasy camp that team doctors failed to realize Brandon Boykin had a degenerative hip condition, so bad that in Lake’s words, there was a point where Boykin couldn’t even run. He didn’t get on the field until late in the 2015 season, the team made no attempt to re-sign him, and he quickly fell out of the league.

There are more minor, but still frustrating, moments. Bud Dupree pushing himself too hard through his hernia injury, failing, and requiring surgery that caused him to miss a large chunk of last season, stunting his development and harming the Steelers’ pass rush.

It’s a misdiagnose the team has fell prey to twice over the past year. Clearly, the Steelers’ team doctors are infinitely more qualified to speak to and evaluate these issues than I could ever be. And no one gets it right all the time. Injury evaluation is a varying shade of grey; not black and white.

Not black and white. Just like how Boykin – and now Green – are no longer in black and gold.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • JT

    I understand your praise for ringing the alarm bells, but to me he comes off like a petty jerk with his snide remakes about a serious medical condition. We should know better about discussing concussions in 2017.

  • Alex Kozora

    Both things can be true.

  • Dshoff

    Ok, so maybe the Steelers screwed up signing him, but why didn’t they sign a TE in the 3rd or 4th round this year????

  • Ed Smith

    Well perhaps your prognostication of 7 WRs making the 53-man roster is about to have a much greater chance of occurring. Think this results in more 4 WR sets this season??

  • If Bouchette had inside info re Green, perhaps his Tweet re Bryant has substance? Btw, it WOULD be a serious blow to our offensive hopes if we lose Green AND Bryant! Let’s hope not!

  • That’s the million dollar question! It’s SOOOO frustrating knowing there were SO many highly athletic TE’s in this draft after whose selection we wouldn’t have blinked at this news.

  • Alex Kozora

    Both are now possible. I might write up more on the latter.

  • corduroyninja

    From what I understand, they wouldn’t know if his concussions were still an issue during the off season because they cannot talk to their players.

  • Alex Kozora

    Right. As curmudgeonly as he can be, he’s well-sourced and is the longest tenured guy in the room. Ed has the goods.

  • Iulo

    doctors were also responsible of the Heyward injury (it is my believe)…
    it was clear he was not ready… he still played until he finally tored another muscle…
    Im not a doctor but in good in physics, when you put an effort and dont distribute it correctly (bacause his ankle was not ok) then he damaged another muscle and that was the end of the season

  • Alex, in light of Green’s release–and assuming the Steelers had even an inkling that his health was still in question, would you care to write a post offering a new “on second thought” draft given what was available per each pick? I can’t help but think a lot of us yinzers are rethinking the draft ourselves.

  • Alex K

    Between these bad FA signings and all the bust trades Colbert/Tomlin haven’t played the FA game very well for years.

  • will

    Steelers doctors too busy handing out pain pills than evaluating medical conditions properly.
    What a miss!
    I heard that Bouchette thought it was his hip………………..

  • walter

    I just want yinz to remember a comment Green made immediately after the New England loss, that if we made it to the Super Bowl, he would have played. I was furious when I heard that comment. As if the loss wasn’t bad enough he adds insult to injury by making such a comment. That comment should have made every fan angry and I think the Steelers just had enough of him. That being said, I think he tricks another team into signing him.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Every single year I hear Colbert talk about how the medical evaluation is the most important part of the combine. Apparently the Steelers don’t put the same premium on the health FA’s as they do potentail draftees. The Green signing was always bad because of the numbers. They gave a career backup 20 over 4 (5 million per). The packers gave Martellus Bennett 21 over 3 (7 million per) when they signed him this year. Speaks a lot to the value of the position. It was never a great deal. It’s a truly awful deal now.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Good write-up on the fly, Alex. Unless you had this one tucked neatly in the “Just in case” folder. Lol.

    I have been seriously contemplating a return back to the golden wonderland of Western Pa. in order to set up the ol’ homestead for the foreseeable future. And I have to be honest, if these doctors are indicative of the care of the broad UPMC complex… I’m now more than a little concerned. I mean, just what in the heck is going on over there? The city has undergone a beautiful transformation, to be sure. But between the lead in all the water, Legionella in the hospitals, the damn road construction, homelessness, and crime in the boroughs… I’m feeling a little downtrodden. Thank goodness there are plenty of wonderful positives to fall back on/consider as well.

    Hopefully the Steelers do their due diligence on the potential free agents and draft choices, a little bit more robustly in the future. This Green fiasco has cost us more than just financially.

  • Alex Kozora

    I dunno, I might. I think it’s been talked about a lot already in the comments section. And I generally don’t go the “they should’ve taken!” route.

  • Alex Kozora

    And now, we have to hope they got it right with T.J. Watt’s knees.

  • Justin B

    Or in the second or third round over a WR or RB.

  • KiJana Haney

    Great article Alex, I had no idea about boykin’s prediction. Hopefully this is just a mistake and they learn from it.

  • Michael

    WoW. Gave L. Green $10,000,000 to catch 18 passes. Where do I sign up? Other TE choices were available without concussion issues. Dropped the ball, FO.

  • justafanlikeyou

    Could we add Senquez Golson’s shoulder to this list? Not sure how you miss a rotator cuff.

  • cencalsteeler

    Ladarius Green reminds me of Rocky after he lost to Clubber Lang, lost and disheartened. He needs Apollo Creed to inject some of that “Eye of the Tiger” mantra. If you look at back at all of his interviews, there was just no luster or passion for the game left. The news doesn’t surprise me one bit. I wish him nothing but the best.

  • toonasteel

    Hmmm….Big Ben’s “Ferrari” …he barely took it around the block….sigh

  • RickM

    Man, that is an understatement. Fingers and toes crossed on that one.

  • Richard Edlin

    Not sure how many 4WR sets that I’d run when Bell is a potential receiver. I suspect there will be a fair bit of 11 personnel this year and when a 4WR play is called Bell could shift to the one slot and JJSS at the other, with a TE in pass protection.

  • mrallnite111 .

    Just STOP picking players out of that dumpster, label property of the San Diego, L.A CHARGERS !!!!

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    *sigh*

  • RickM

    But. I think most everyone felt Green was doubtful to complete a full season…and one more concussion would have been it. It was strange to gamble on him even further.

  • Shane Mitchell

    They clearly didnt do their homework before signing him, or trading for Boykin which also raises serious questions in my mind over the TJ Watt selection in the first round given his chronic knee problems.

    With the Boykin trade the funny thing is after they found out he had hip problems and could barely run they still kept him on the roster the entire year, ridiculous.

  • Alex Kozora

    A very fair point.

  • RickM

    If Bouchette is right that they didn’t look into the history enough, and you yourself were aware of some “scary” stuff, then yes they whiffed badly on this one. Frankly I’m not sure how it wasn’t a concern to them. The guy lost consciousness in December 2014 when Browner hit him and he missed the last 3 games of the season. Then, when the regular season started the next September, he almost immediately reported concussion-like symptoms in two practices and I think missed another game. Some have said that he even had a 4th concussion protocol in the 2015 San Diego training camp, although I’m not sure that has been verfied.

    All teams roll the dice with injuries, but head injuries are the wrong thing to gamble on. Kevin Colbert makes a LOT of excellent decisions. But I genuinely hope he starts placing more attention on repetitive injuries. Right now, multiple concussions for Green, multiple shoulder injuries for Feeney, multiple hip injuries for Lewis, multiple foot injuries for Bradshaw etc. don’t seem to dull his interest in the least. And frankly they should.

  • Mark G Hunter

    How does Watt have chronic knee problems? SMH…. Some of you guys on here are like old woman. You worry way too much about thinks outta your control. No teams decision making is completely mistake free. They all make bad decisions,or take bad gambles from time to time. Ok so you move on. Can’t act like we never made or still don’t make bad decisions in our life.

  • RickM

    How does Watt have chronic knee problems? How about knee injuries in 2013, 2014 and 2015 that supposedly caused him to ask his parents ‘why does this keep happening to me?’. I hope T.J. has a fantastic and healthy career. But of course he has a history of knee issues and operations.

  • Mark G Hunter

    I only read that he had one injury in 2014. But how is it chronic though? He had a few injuries got them repaired. Since 2015 it hasn’t been reported that he’s had any lingering problems with his knees. In fact, I’ve heard him say that his knees felt better than they ever had.

  • Ethan Marines

    Not only did they drop the ball on the signing of Green, they knew this was coming and they did not draft a TE to Replace Green. Instead They choose to draft a receiver that they do not need and a QB that isn’t any better than the one sitting behind Ben now. The Steelers now have Jesse James…who is developing into t blocker and receiver but is he a #1? They have Johnson and Grimble backing him up, which is a scary though if James goes down. Don’t worry, they brought in a bunch of undrafted FA’s to he day!!! The Steelers better be on the phone right now kissing Gary Barnridges ass!!!

  • Shane Mitchell

    Yes, everyone makes bad decisions, the problem is not learning from them. Watt missed most of his college career from numerous knee injuries to both knees. Not sure how that makes me an old woman to think it might be a problem, by the way I also questioned signing Green last year immediately after, and pointed out he had a history of concussions that could be a problem, guess I was being an old woman with that one also.

  • Shane Mitchell

    You should do a bit more research, he switched position from TE to OLB because of chronic knee injuries, pretty sure he says this himself in one of his interviews. Apparently running and cutting so much playing TE was not good for his knees, so he switched positions and was looking to enter the NFL draft as soon as possible, wonder why?

  • RickM

    The Falcons scouting report on him refers to 3 knee injuries and I’ve read that elsewhere as well. That doesn’t mean that he won’t stay healthy for the Steelers. But there definitely is a track record of problems. Personally, I think the guy can be really good. My only concern is the knees and I hope it’s behind him.

  • SfSteeler

    cant know a guys health situation before the draft, thats just dumb!

  • Shane Mitchell

    2014? he didnt play from 2012 through the 2014 season, not a single game because of knee problems.

  • Rocksolid20

    So who should be held liable in this case ? Where is our medical staff at the time
    this signings occur ? Someones head should roll .

  • Mark G Hunter

    I can’t find any accounts of him having more than two knee injuries. So by the multiple injuries you mean the two he had on both knees right? But that’s almost 3 years ago. He hasn’t had any problems as of late. Also, you have to take into account how those knee injuries occurred. Depending on what type, and the severity of the knee injury. Often times players come back with their knees stronger than before they were injured. And never have problems with them again. However it’s always a chance they could suffer another “freak” injury. I haven’t read any reports that his knees were bothering him last season. Only when he starts complaining about knee pain, and sits out training camp, pre_season and regular season games, because of “chronic pain in his knees.” Then we can start worrying like “old woman.” Until then we need just chill out a little. Hopefully we never have to hear anything bad about this guys knees again.

  • capehouse

    Wow just finding out about the news. Did they evaluate his medical incorrectly during the offseason? Geez I can’t imagine Phazahn Odom will save the position. What was the backup plan incase this happened? My goodness, not 1 TE brought in during free agency or the draft. I thought that was evidence of Green’s health. They can’t get somebody to look at him before the friggin draft? Is Green to blame again for hiding medical issues during the offseason? Why does it seem like the Steelers shoot themselves in the foot every offseason lately?

  • Steve

    How did these Doctors check out the Steelers and miss these conditions? If I had messed up this much in the past 2 years, I would have been fired. Someone needs to be accountable.

  • Steve

    To think he will get paid from the Steelers, after being cut. What a waist of money.

  • ND_Steel

    Number of snaps with Ben, Brown, Bell, Bryant, and Green on the field…0…what a shame…

  • Steve

    This is one of the reasons Steeler put such a Nigh priority on the Draft.

  • ND_Steel

    While you try not to, you gotta wonder how much of this was about just getting paid.

  • ND_Steel

    Thus the 2nd round draft pick of Ju Ju and insurance with Hunter. There’s quite a bit of smoke here…I won’t believe Bryant is back til he’s back.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    But he did say Bryant should be ready for camp

  • Brian Miller

    Good point.

  • Brian Miller

    That hurts…

  • steelmann58

    WHO get to to fall on the sword for this big mistake

  • Edjhjr

    Even I knew this. Well after the Ravens game yes, I predicted this. Actually I said it was a fact he won’t play again.

  • RickM

    Which one, the $20 M signing, or the second one where they didn’t protect themselves in the draft? In some ways I fault them more for the second one as they unequivically knew of his 2016 concussion problems and assumed he would be able to play.

  • Arnold Ziffel

    The alarm bells should have gone off to Colbert,Tomlin and everyone when the Chargers went with a 38 year old TE coming off a season ending injury and a second year player rather then offer Green a contract. DUH!!! You think they might have known something and the Steelers were duped again by ‘athletic talent’ rather than will he be able to play at a high level and play regularly. Colbert & Tomlin seem to have a knack of taking the guys that are athletic but always hurt.

  • Applebite

    Troy Polamalu had multiple concussions before being drafted…

    Let’s not spend that kind of energy worrying about the negatives.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Huh? what does Troy have to do with anything? you choose one of the most physically talented draft prospects in NFL history and a future hall of famer as a comparison to who exactly? Lets quit wasting energy thinking anyone we drafted even deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Troy Polamalu as a prospect even before he went on to have a hall of fame career. Troy ran a 4.35, had a 43″ vertical, benched 29 reps,and scored 24 on the wonderlic, to go along with his on the field production as a two time first team All-American. Concussions? if the man was missing an arm I might still draft him round one, its not like he was the 5th or 6th rated prospect at his position or something.

  • Applebite

    Two things.

    1) Troy had a pre-existant health issue, as pointed out here about Watt being drafted, regardless of him having previous knee problems. You can’t point out one player for having health issues, and totally ignore another player’s health issues, simply because you know how things turned out with him as a player in the league, when all was said and done.

    Basically, you’re a hypocrite in doing so.

    2) Troy had several concussions over the course of his playing years. He had 3 at USC, 2 in high school, and he admitted that he hid many as a Steeler, which it would be safe to assume, he had more than the recorded 8. My biggest fear with Troy being a draft pick, and I’ve stated this every time I speak about him, was him with another concussion. That was my biggest fear with Troy. You can’t even begin to tell me, he only had one in college. Or that it was his first one.

    Most players are more willing to hide these issues, because they’re **Men**. Men are more than willing to play through the pain, and that goes for any sport. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened with Green here. He didn’t share his condition with the Steelers and likely felt it wasn’t a big deal, that he could get through it. That’s a lot more dangerous than TJ having a couple of knee issues.

    Troy even admitted as much in an interview. You can have a broken arm, bad foot, whatever, but losing your capacity ‘upstairs’ could turn you into a vegetable. Nobody seemed to fear the idea of Troy getting a concussion during his playing years. I know I did, it was my biggest fear, seeing him laid out on his back and non-responsive. Knee injuries? Bad knees would have ruined his combine and pro day, but that never seemed to be an issue for TJ up to this point. You’re worried about nothing compared to Troy’s career with concussions.

  • Michael James

    I’m not really concerned over Watt’s knees to be honest. He played the last two seasons without any problems. Ever since he switched to OLB he didn’t have any setbacks.

  • Michael James

    Man, calm down a bit. It’s not like Applebite insulted anyone here.
    He does have a point. You never know how those injuries in college affect their NFL careers. Shazier was never injured in college and was labeled as “extremely durable” at the draft. He is often injured in the pros. C.J. Mosley was labeled “injury prone”, because he had many injuries in college, yet he’s only missed 2 games since he turned pro.

  • Ray Powell

    Seems to me that Watt was both a better pick positionally and a better player than those two in the first. If they’d gone for Roberts in the third, then lots of people would have been moaning about them not taking a corner, and IMO corner was more important at the time. Could make a case for going tight end in the fourth instead of picking Dobbs, but we won’t see how important the Dobbs pick was (or not) for years. I would observe that TE isn’t the most important position in the Steelers system, at least when it comes to receiving. Even someone as good as Heath Miller rarely put up big numbers.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    The best ability is availability. Steelers ignored that with this signing and paid the price for it.

  • Jones

    Let’s be reasonable here. You, nor I, have any real idea of what goes into proper medical treatment OR evaluation of these athletes, yet here you are asserting in no uncertain terms that the Steelers medical staff failed to do one property because they were too busy doing the other improperly. I get that the end result was a failed FA acquisition, and either something was missed, or a possibility for poor health was ignored, but to sit here and blast the competency, motives and process of the entire medical staff is a little much. Step back from the ledge, guy.

  • Jones

    Could’ve been that he thought he would have cleared the protocol by then – doesn’t necessarily mean he was taking a game off and being picky about when he came back… But when you’re a FA that didn’t work out, the Yinzers have to get some use out of all of those torches and pitchforks, I suppose…

  • Adam Pristas

    At that price it must have been a ’62 250 GTO.

  • Jones

    I’ll defend the Greene acquisition to a point. He was fantastic when healthy. But part of me thinks we should avoid FAs altogether, because there have been some BIG (not always expensive) misses lately. Greene, Boykin, Jacoby Jones. The only one that I can think of that went well lately was DeAngelo Williams.

  • mark mcfadden

    the surgeries were more than 2 years ago dummy. Get UR delusional disorder checked

  • mark mcfadden

    Want the skinny, go to the steelers website and watch his 4 minute interview while out on concussion for 3-4 weeks where he fakes concussion symptoms in the 1st 2 minutes and then suddenly they are gone in the last 2 minutes ( he forgot he was on camera). Any doctor will tell you concussion symptoms don’t last 4 weeks. I Know because I have been knocked out 3 times and saw a doctor each time. Faking injury, collecting paychecks same as the corner they cut last year, same reasons he was let go. One of the days he faked symptoms and didn’t play he had a migraine headache. Yes these are facts.

  • walter

    It wasnt just that one comment.

  • I have to agree with Dave Bryan from his most recent Podcast. I’d also feel more comfortable had the Steelers taken George Kittle or Jordan Leggett in the 4th and passed on a development QB until later. The thing is–and I think this is Dave’s reasoning–we have an elite QB now with all the Offensive positions potentially filled by high-level [if not elite] players except TE. Ben and the current team has a two, maybe three year SB window. We saw in Green’s few appearances how effective a fast, athletic TE can be when teamed with Ben–and what it can add to the offense. James is serviceable, but he doesn’t add this dimension.

  • Ray Powell

    I agree that would make things more comfortable right now and it may turn out to have been the better option. However, if Ben did decide to retire in the next couple of years and Dobbs was the best QB on the roster at the time, we may end up thanking God that he was drafted. We’ll just have to see.