Steelers Nation was stunned days ago when the team decided to cut ties with tight end Ladarius Green. Green, a high profile free agent signing in 2016, had been a hot topic around town with his inability to stay healthy, which in turn kept him from playing in games.
Everyone was asking: what is Green’s status going forward?
Well, it looked good initially. The Steelers didn’t sign any other tight ends during the start of free agency, while also staying away from the position during the NFL Draft. The inaction of adding to the position looked like the team was content with giving Green a chance in 2017.
Heck, any time you heard from Steelers brass about Green, the comments were positive.
Except for Green getting released on Thursday.
With Green gone, there’s speculation about the tight end position. Are the Steelers going to be okay? Will they look to bring someone else in? Etc.
However, let’s look at this situation from another perspective: if the Steelers had kept Green on the roster, would the questions be any different?
Part of Ladarius’ release had to do with being unreliable. If you were putting together game plans or trying to field your best team possible, would you want to continue planning for a player who isn’t going to play? Would you want to take playing time and preparation away from another player who would be available.
Going forward, releasing Green is probably what’s best for Pittsburgh. It pains me to say this in a way because we saw some the potential that the tight end could bring to the Steelers offense. Green finally got on the field against the Dallas Cowboys after sitting on the PUP list to start the season. In that game, he caught three of his four targets for 30 yards.
He would play limited snaps against the Cleveland Browns a week later, before bursting onto the scene in his next two appearances. Green was a game changer against the Colts and Giants, catching a pair of passes for 67 yards against Indy and having a career game against New York with six receptions for 110 yards and what would be his only touchdown as a Steeler.
He would finish the year playing two more games. Against the Bills, Green would gain 25 yards on two catches, and haul in another five footballs for 72 yards against the Bengals before suffering another concussion and never clear the league’s protocol to return.
While it’s a shame he isn’t coming back, the team can now move forward without the uncertainty of Green’s game time status. The Steelers can focus on utilizing Jesse James, working in journeyman Xavier Grimble, or seeing if rookies Scott Orndoff or Phazahn Odom fit into their plans. I also won’t rule out a cursory look around the league to see if any other veterans could strengthen their tight end depth chart.
Regardless, all of those concepts are better than a “maybe” scenario with a starter. I feel like this is a weight lifted off of everyone’s shoulders: the franchise moves forward, and Green can safely stay away from further risks to his health.