Word was, the Steelers offense could be unstoppable next season. Why? Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and, now, Ladarius Green, the former Chargers' understudy tight end to Antonio Gates, who will get his shot at the top of the depth chart, after Pittsburgh inked him to a four year, $20 million deal last week.
That's an embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of the football.
Unfortunately, the Steelers find themselves a little poorer today, thanks to the news over the weekend that Bryant, the third-year receiver with seemingly endless abilities who was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season, is facing a second suspension--this time for an entire season--for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy multiple times.
Taking Bryant's unfortunate battle with both drugs and reportedly depression out of the equation, that's a staggering blow to a team that is considered one of the favorites to make it to Super Bowl LI next February.
In addition to Bryant's suspension, Pittsburgh's offense was affected in 2015 by Bell's two-game suspension for a DUI, his season-ending MCL tear sustained against the Bengals in Week 8, Roethlisberger's sprained MCL in Week 3 that kept him out for four weeks, Maurkice Pouncey's devastating preseason ankle injury that ultimately forced him to miss the entire season, Kelvin Beachum's season-ending ACL tear in Week 6, Brown's concussion in the wild card game that forced him to miss the divisional round and Williams' foot/ankle injury he sustained in Week 17 that caused him to miss the entire postseason.
That's a lot of bad luck for a world-class offense, and now, six months before the start of the 2016 season, a key-component in Bryant, someone who you hoped had overcome his demons, will almost surely be a non-factor.
With the absence of Bryant, another aerial weapon is going to have to step-up and create similar match-up problems. Will it be Darrius Heyward-Bey or practically brand new Sammie Coates? Maybe, but my money is on Green.
As Gene Collier pointed out on Friday in his article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Green's "young legs and redoubtable athleticism can enable him to get to balls Heath [Miller] no longer could, in areas of the field Heath no longer visited."
In other words, unlike the legendary Heath Miller who recently retired after 11 glorious seasons, Green, and his 4.5ish 40-time, can stretch the field and create match-up problems for the linebackers trying to keep up with him. And with his 6'6" and 240ish pound frame, he can also create match-up problems for the defensive backs trying to tackle him once he sprints past those linebackers and gets into the secondary.
While a receiver like Bryant may possess athletic attributes that very few in the NFL can boast about, Green is gifted with the kind of athleticism no Steelers tight end in recent memory could claim.
In 2015, entrusted with a much bigger role due to the month-long suspension of Gates to begin the year, Green, in his fourth season, put up his best numbers, when he pulled in 37 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns.
Not great numbers, but not bad for an up-and-comer who finally got an opportunity to prove his worth.
There are 20 million reasons why the Steelers think Green is worth something, and now, thanks to Bryant's continuing troubles, Green may be in a position of importance he probably didn't envision less than a week ago, when he signed his name to his new deal.