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The Pittsburgh Steelers once had a ‘Gronk’ of their own

The Pittsburgh Steelers once had a big, strong, matchup nightmare at tight end of their very own. His name was Eric Green.

Eric Green

What is a Gronk? A Gronk is a creature in nature that defies logic. Sometimes nature will surprise us with an anomaly — something that shouldn't exist, but yet walks the earth among us like some unholy union.

That’s where the appellation “Gronk” came from. It's the nickname given to the New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronkowski is the bully on the block, and there’s nobody he loves to bully more than the Pittsburgh Steelers. He doesn't just push them around while he swipes their lunch money, he taunts them in the process. Just ask Sean Davis.

Truth is, he doesn't just enjoy dominating the Steelers — he destroys any opponent unfortunate enough to line up across from him.

No individual that big and strong should ever be so fast — it’s simply not a fair playing field. Defensive backs bounce off him like flies as he rumbles downfield, oftentimes actually accelerating away from them to their surprise.

Add to the equation his great pair of mitts and you get the biggest mismatch in the league today. The type of player that only comes around once in a lifetime. Right?

Actually, no. The Steelers had their own version of Gronk back in the early 90s when Mr. Rob Gronkowski was still in diapers and using a sippy cup. His name was Eric Green.

Eric Green was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick in the 1990 NFL Draft. He was a tight end out of Liberty University and he cut an imposing figure indeed.

He stood 6'5" and weighed in at around 280 lbs. Back in the day, that was more like the average size of an offensive lineman than a tight end. He definitely put that size to good use, as he was a devastating blocker at the tight end position.

Like Gronkowski, it was Green's amazing agility and movement skills that made him special on the gridiron. He resembled a runaway freight train once he caught the ball and headed downfield.

He instantly became the Steelers’ most dynamic offensive weapon after a lengthy holdout due to his rookie contract caused him to miss all of training camp and the first five games of the season.

He ended up catching seven touchdown passes his rookie year and the future looked bright for the young man. He would go on to play a total of five seasons for the Black-and-gold, and make the Pro Bowl after both the '93 and '94 seasons.

So what happened to Mr. Green and his bright NFL future?

Unfortunately, Green had another characteristic in common with Gronkowski. He was a knucklehead, plain and simple.

While Gronkowski has often been guilty of boorish and childish behavior, his lapses in judgment have rarely impacted the Patriots on the field, except for his multiple game suspension last season for a late hit against the Buffalo Bills.

Eric Green’s immaturity and lack of discipline had a detrimental effect on his career and poisoned his relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ organization.

The lengthy holdout over his initial contract at the outset of his professional career proved to be a precursor of things to come. During the '92 season he received a 6-game suspension for his second failed drug test. He struggled with weight and conditioning issues throughout his career, even during his Pro Bowl seasons with the Steelers.

After his best season in '93, he threatened to hold out if the Steelers didn't pay him what he felt was fair compensation. Right before the start of the season, he finally agreed to a one-year contract to assure he’d become a free agent the following offseason.

He gambled on himself and the gamble seemed to pay off big-time. In 1995, the Miami Dolphins signed him to what, at that time, was the largest contract ever in NFL history for a tight end.

Sadly, his time in Miami lasted for only one season, as he was released after the season due to weight issues and character concerns.

He would go on to play three seasons for the Baltimore Ravens and then finish his undistinguished career playing his final season with the New York Jets.

We can only ponder what might have been if Green had been more disciplined and made better career decisions. He once had been judged as a once-in-a-lifetime talent who appeared destined to become the greatest tight end in Steelers’ history.

Sadly, it wasn't meant to be.