The Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to wait until the draft to find a suitable replacement for the recently retired Heath Miller, nor did they choose to rely on the young Jesse James to fill the role of starting tight end for the team.
Ladarius Green was one of the best tight ends available in the 2016 NFL free agent market and Kevin Colbert made sure that Green would have an opportunity to prove just how good he can be in the league.
This will be the first article of a two-part series on Green which we will study his skills as a new member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Green enters his fifth NFL season in 2016, but only in two of those seasons did he start more than four games. In 2013 and 2015 he was able to score multiple touchdowns, but in 2015 he recorded his most targets at 63, receptions at 37, yards at 429 and touchdowns at four.
In those four seasons, he showcased athleticism and solid receiving skills that make him a deep threat and a player whom is difficult to cover because of his size, speed, explosiveness, and ability to make tough catches in traffic.
Route-Running vs. Linebackers
Earlier this season, the Packers thought they could line up Clay Matthews in front of LaDarius Green and prevent him from getting open. Green has a solid frame for a tight end which makes him difficult to press, but when you add in his quickness and release he becomes even more difficult of a target to cover.
Green is able to use a quick stutter step and switch gears to blaze past Matthews and make a solid over the shoulder catch. We will get into highlighting his speed in a bit, but this highlights Green's ability to get open.
2013 Touchdown vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Green is fast, especially for a tight end, which is something the Steelers have not had at the tight end position. Miller was good at getting open, but he hardly ever made anyone miss with the ball in his hands, let alone did he ever run away from fast opponents.
Here we can see Green in one-on-one coverage with a defensive back as he outruns his man on the route, then takes the pass in stride running past the safety and another cornerback. Green has the jets to get loose and be a problem after the catch, something which Pittsburgh could use to bolster an already terrifying offense for defenses to fear.
Climbs the ladder for red zone catches
Though Green has only seven touchdowns in his NFL career and the majority of said touchdowns involve him using his speed to outrun and/or out-maneuver opponents, Green does possess the capacity to be a difficult red zone target for defenses to work against. Green's tape shows that he is more than adequate at locating the football and attacking it at its highest point.
Also observe Green's ability to focus enough to make sure his feet are in bounds enough to make the reception. Pittsburgh will need a player to make plays such as this touchdown in the absence of Martavis Bryant, arguably the Steelers' best red zone target, and Green could be that replacement.
Next up: Blocking
Our next article on the study of Green's skills will focus on his blocking skills. While his abilities as a receiver for the Steelers' offense appear to be exactly what the team needs, his blocking abilities also lend to the notion that he could be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.