New Steeler Ladarius Green puts more speed into mix for Big Ben
March 11, 2016 12:47 AM
Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press
Former San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green should provide yet another weapon for the Steelers offense.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
He is no Heath Miller. Ladarius “Pee Wee” Green is not going to make Pro Bowls or the nightly highlights by throwing devastating blocks.
He might not even catch Miller’s team-record 592 receptions for tight ends if he sticks around for a decade.
What he can do is run — fast — and catch the deep ball along with the others, and at 6 feet 6, 250 pounds, he gives the Steelers a different dimension than they’ve had at the position in quite some time, perhaps ever. He is another tall receiver the Steelers have delivered to Ben Roethlisberger, which adds to their quarterback’s embarrassment of riches on offense.
That Green is a tight end joining that offense means he will have to block some, and he has shown an ability and willingness to do that, something the Steelers have enough confidence he will manage to do. But make no mistake, Green was signed because of his 4.53 speed and his talent as a receiver, first and foremost, and in that sense, he gives them a tight end who can go get it.
Miller was a two-way tight end who would catch anything thrown to him, block anything in front of him and was as valuable to their offense as anyone on it other than the quarterback. But he did not have the kind of speed that once moved San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers to say about Green, “He’s the fastest guy on the team. That might make some of the receivers mad, but it’s true in my opinion.”
The Steelers have had good tight ends through the years such as Miller and Mark Bruener, Randy Grossman, Bennie Cunningham and another Green, Eric, all the way back to a Dan Rooney favorite, Elbie Nickel. None could stretch a field the way Ladarius Green has the potential to do.
Of course, he still must do it with the Steelers, and the others all proved their worth to them through the years. His signing, however, is a sign that the franchise and coaching staff are ready to dive into a new era — for them — of having a tight end who is predominantly a receiver, the way Green’s old team, the Chargers, have had for so many years.
He was the heir apparent in San Diego to the great Antonio Gates, but the Chargers decided to stick with Gates, who signed a new two-year, $12 million contract Wednesday to stay there. Green decided to seek greener pastures in Pittsburgh, with a four-year, $20 million contract.
What’s better than coming to a team that has Roethlisberger at quarterback?
“I was already going,” Green said of his decision to sign with the Steelers. “But that was a cherry on top of it.”
The loss of Miller left a hole in an otherwise perfectly balanced offense, and while, again, Green is no Miller, he can cause defenses different kinds of headaches because of his ability to go deep and the kind of height to go with it. He is Plaxico Burress — who ran a 4.59 at 231 pounds — at tight end.
Let Jesse James, Matt Spaeth, Roosevelt Nix and — if they re-sign him — Will Johnson block. Cut Green loose.
Where once Roethlisberger pleaded with the Steelers to give him a tall receiver, he now has the 6-4 Martavis Bryant, 6-2 Darrius Heyward-Bey, 6-6 Green, and Spaeth and James, both at 6-7.
Combined with All-Pro Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and All-Pro Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers offense again is bursting at the thigh pads with talent that few, if any, NFL teams can match. Imagine what they should be able to do around the goal line, which once looked more difficult to penetrate than Martin Brodeur.
“Those are some big-time names and players,” Green said. “I am just ready to get in line with them and try to follow their lead.”
With all that talent, there might not be enough footballs to go around.
“Even if there is not, you just want to be a part of something great,” said Green, showing that when it comes to saying the right things, he has plenty of Miller in him. “No matter who gets the ball, as long as somebody makes a play, you are there to congratulate them, or you’re there to make the next play if you can.
“Or if you don’t, just keep playing with them. Keep moving along. Keep winning. Keep getting ready to play.”
He may be no Miller, but somehow Green looks and sounds like a good fit in Pittsburgh in many ways.
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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