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Ladarius Green expects to return in 2017, but will it change the Steelers Draft approach?

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Steelers TE Ladarius Green had a season to forget in 2017, but expects to return in 2017. Will that change how the team approaches the NFL Draft?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers season was notable for a lot of reasons, and one of those was due to the ongoing saga that was Ladarius Green. After being the team’s prized free agent acquisition, Green’s ankle injury kept him on the shelf to start training camp.

Being put up on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start training camp isn’t unusual, but Green never returned to the field. In fact, he remained on the PUP list for nearly the first half of the season. During this time, reports swirled of ongoing concussion symptoms, but Green eventually made it onto the field. And when he was on the field he made an impact.

Then came the hit which gave him yet another concussion against the Cincinnati Bengals, and he never played another snap throughout the duration of the regular season and the team’s run to the AFC Championship game.

There was a time when the situation seemed so dire many were questioning whether Green would simply retire from football rather than putting himself in harm’s way again.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Green is expecting to be back with the black and gold next season.

"I expect to come back," Green told ESPN of offseason workouts.

When it comes to getting a fresh start, Green said "I definitely am [excited]. ... I think everybody is."

Kevin Colbert mentioned during his time at the NFL Scouting Combine how Green would have to pass a physical, which would likely include a concussion test, before he would expect him to be back in the lineup.

So, let’s recap.

Green’s season from hell ended with only 6 games played, 18 receptions for 304 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 16.9 yards per reception in his brief time in the lineup. His concussion ended his season, and he now expects to be back in 2017.

This is all well and good, but should the Steelers change their approach to the 2017 NFL Draft with the expectation of Green being back in the lineup?

No.

In my opinion, their approach to the offseason should be similar to the way they are handling the questionable return of Martavis Bryant. You hope he is back, but you plan as if he isn’t.

Green is a difference maker on the field, but keeping him on the field seems to be the issue. The Steelers tight end depth chart certainly doesn’t give them the ability to just roll the dice with Green as their only dynamic threat at the position. Jesse James is solid, but is not the player who can stretch the field and win one-on-one matchups with linebackers down the seam.

Rather, the Steelers should be looking for one of the many athletic tight ends entering this year’s draft as an insurance policy if Green isn’t able to stay on the field next season.

And if he is able to remain healthy? Then you have yourself a young athlete to go along with Green for some tremendous two tight end sets which have become so popular in today’s NFL.

I hope Green returns to the field in 2017. Anyone who says they don’t want him on the field is seriously kidding themselves. Green makes the team better because of his skill set. Does he have his issues? Absolutely, but who doesn’t.

However, the Steelers can’t afford to gamble on Green’s health when it comes to their approach to the upcoming Draft. Get a young athlete to accompany Green, and give yourself options when it comes to your offensive game planning. If Green can’t play, or gets hurt again, you aren’t staring at Jesse James as your top tight end on the roster.