Steelers go all-out to get free-agent TE Ladarius Green from Chargers
March 10, 2016 4:46 PM
"It wasn’t too hard of a choice,” tight end Ladarius Green said of choosing to sign with the Steelers.
Matt Ludtke/Associated Press
San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green is hit after making a catch against the Green Bay Packers in October.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers put on the full-court press to land free agent tight Ladarius Green Wednesday. Coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert flew to Green’s hometown of Pensacola, Fla. on the first day of free agency and persuaded the former San Diego Charger to play for the Steelers.
Green had some offers to sign with other teams, but the positive vibes he got from Tomlin and Colbert, along with $20 million over four years, were enough to persuade him to sign with the Steelers after spending the past four years as the backup to Antonio Gates in San Diego.
“I had some [offers], but everyone knows the Steelers, the history behind the team,” Green said. “Everybody has seen the offense as well. It wasn’t too hard of a choice.”
Green learned first-hand about the loyal following of the Steelers when they played the Chargers in San Diego in Week 5. There were so many Steelers fans at Qualcomm Stadium that the Chargers had to use a silent count on offense.
“Did I notice?” Green asked, playfully. “I think everyone noticed the number of Steelers fans out there. When you saw the towels in there it was pretty bad for us because we had to go on silent count. We knew they were there.”
Green, who will wear No. 80 for the Steelers, said that scene in San Diego also played a role in his decision to sign with the Steelers.
“You want to be around that kind of stuff,” he said. “It was a pretty big point in coming.”
Green had ankle surgery following the season, but he expects to be ready for training camp in August. He also said reports of concussions keeping him out games last season was misleading. His issues were later diagnosed as sinus problems.
There was a time when Green was viewed as the long-term replacement for Gates in San Diego, but the Chargers allowed Gates to walk and signed Gates signed a two-year contract extension Wednesday.
Now Green must replace Steelers great Heath Miller, who retired last month after 11 seasons.
“I didn’t follow [Miller] too much because I was behind another Hall of Famer in Antonio Gates,” Green said. “I was learning as much as I could from him. When you play the [the Steelers], all you hear is ‘Heeeeeaath’ in the background. I don’t want to consider myself trying to follow in his footsteps because those are some pretty big shoes to fill. I’m just trying to be the best person I can be and do half of what he did for this organization.”
Green is uniquely prepared to take over for a legend. He said the best piece of advice Gates ever gave him had to do with just that.
“The most important thing he taught me was to be myself,” Green said. “I had to learn way back then not to try and follow in his footsteps. That’s what I’m going to apply here, try not to be Heath. You can’t be Heath. I’m just going to try to be myself here as well.”
Green is known as a pass-catching tight end, but he said he is confident in his blocking abilities. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Green has the frame to add more weight and he is considering doing so in the next few months.
“I still have to build myself up some," he said. "It’s something I can do and I’m willing to do. I probably can get a little bigger. If it helps me blocking, I’ll definitely do it.”
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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