Of Tight Ends and Long Snappers: Farewell and Godspeed

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns

Via Steelers Wire, USA Today Sports

Well, I guess that sixth-round pick wasted on a long snapper isn’t looking quite so dumb. When the Steelers announced the pick of Colin Holba my husband and I were on our way to a St. George’s Day dinner. (Bet you haven’t been invited to one of those lately! It’s not in the same class as my sister-in-law, who has been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace* in a couple of weeks, but it is still pretty nice.)

But to return to the subject, I looked at the name, which I didn’t recognize, and then the “LS” next to it, and I said “Why on earth are the Steelers drafting a long snapper?!!!” Me and about 99.72% of Steeler Nation. (My guess is that the rest didn’t notice.) Between the announcement of the pick and crossing the Ft. Pitt bridge, though, I said “The Steelers must have concerns about Warren’s health.”

And if they did, they were correct to do so, as Warren failed to pass his physical. It certainly makes the pick less surprising. And as someone pointed out, it isn’t often you can draft someone in the sixth round and be fairly sure they will still be playing for you in ten years. All I can hope is that Gerry Dulac is feeling at least faintly foolish right now.

On the other hand, the seeming complete disinterest in what was one of the best tight end classes in a decade (those are Kevin Colbert’s words) made many of us assume that the Steelers were pretty confidant about Ladarius Green’s health. Right up until he too failed his physical. There are several possibilities:

  • The Steelers did in fact think he was doing well, right up until he failed the physical.
  • The Steelers were aware he was not likely to play in 2017, but they are sufficiently happy with the progress of Jesse James that they didn’t want to spend a high pick on a TE, especially when a WR they presumably liked better than any of the available tight ends was dangled temptingly before them.
  • The Steelers were prepared to draft a tight end they liked, but none of them were available at the correct value point.

Or, of course, something else altogether which we may never know.

And just to clarify, I don’t assume that even a tall WR like JJ S-S is the equivalent of a tight end. But I got the impression when reading up on the 2017 draft class that few of these touted tight ends were good at blocking – they were mainly a weapon in the passing game, and perhaps could be taught to block eventually. Guys like Rob Gronkowski, who was a willing if not polished blocker back in 2010, seem to be a dying breed. (And I should add that Gronkowski is now a highly accomplished run blocker. Part of what the Pats miss when he isn’t playing is that facet of his game.)

But this post isn’t meant to be about what’s to come so much as what was. So I’ll say a quick farewell to Ladarius Green, because frankly we never knew ye. We saw some really intriguing moments in the few times he actually played, but all they did was whet our appetites for more, and now, like some exotic variety of Baskin Robbins ice cream, it’s gone forever. I wish Green all the best, and frankly with his history of concussions I would be begging him to retire if I were his mom. I can’t help but think this is for the best, at least for him.

Greg Warren is another story. Although he is almost certainly not the Steeler people think of when they think of the Steelers, his tenure on the team was longer than anyone but James Harrison. Perhaps the photo below well help you to recognize him. Sorry, Greg, I couldn’t resist… Because the thing about a long snapper is, if you notice him, the reason is almost always bad.

Warren was signed the same year Ben was drafted. He has played in 183 regular season games, which is almost certainly more than Ben has. That figure does not include the games he missed because of knee injuries during two seasons.  It also doesn’t include playoff games, but there were quite a few of them during the years between 2005 and the beginning of this year, so the total number of games he has played in is probably very close to 200.

I wrote a profile on Warren last year. You can read the full article here. As I researched the article I was impressed at the depth and reach of his charity activities. He made the most of his college career, and originally planned to be a biology teacher. His coach was the one who persuaded him to stay on for his final year of eligibility and take a stab at the NFL. Which was lucky for us.

IMG_1773

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Peter Diana photo

No one can play forever. Here’s what Warren said:

I would first like to thank the Steelers organization, coaches and training staff for their help and advice over the last few weeks. I had full intentions of playing this upcoming season, but in light of new information I’ve recently received from my doctors relating to a past injury, it has been determined that trying to compete in the 2017 season may be a risk to my long-term health. After discussing this with the Steelers, we have decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to release me at this point.

Whatever he decides to do now, whether it is go back to school to update his teaching credentials or spend more time on his charitable activities or what have you, I’m sure he will do it well. As I ended the profile:

Whatever he chooses to do, I suspect he will do it the way he has been a Steeler—quietly, methodically, reliably. In a high-visibility profession he has flown under the radar. And something tells me he’s just fine with that.

*for real. My niece works there. In HR. Didn’t know the palace had an HR department, did you? It’s not all beer and skittles, though – after they announced the opening for Social Media Director, my niece and her crew had to sort through about 15,000 applications.

2 comments

  • I too wonder what the deal is with Ladarius Green. Unless I’m mistaken, Kevin Colbert’s comments during his off season press encounters tend to lead me to believe that they expected him back. However, when the Steelers made David Johnson a P1 one (at least in terms of timing, although not in terms of $) free agent signing, it suggested to me they were concerned about Green’s availability.

    If Ed Bouchette’s reporting is correct, the Steelers didn’t do their medical due diligence before signing Green, which is “Below the line.”

    And like you, if I knew Green, I’d encourage him to retire. (Although if Dale Lolley’s reporting is correct, it was his ankle and not head-trauma related issues that caused the Steelers to cut him.)

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  • The Strange Tale of Ladarius Green will probably never be fully known. You can criticize the Steelers for a lack of due diligence, but as I understand it a substantial part of diagnosing concussions is based on reported symptoms by the patient. Do you have headaches? Do you feel dizzy? Have you experienced ringing in the ears, blurred vision, mental lapses? A lot of attention has been given to the fact that sometimes players lie to get back on the field. Maybe, just maybe, they lie to gain lucrative contracts too, and there’s not much you can do to avoid that.

    Part of the oddness of the story is that the Steelers made no effort to replace him. It’s a little less odd, though, if you consider that Martavis Bryant’s suspension and the resultant lack of a big, athletic receiver was a big part of why Green was signed. Bryant is back, Coates has shown that he’s a dynamite player when healthy, Justin Hunter was brought in, and Juju Smith-Schuster was drafted. The Steelers don’t really need a dynamic receiving TE, and signing a couple guys like Orndoff and Odom kind of highlights that. Like you said, a TE and a slot receiver aren’t the same thing, but they are close enough that excellence at one can diminish the importance of the other.

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