The Pittsburgh Steelers put on the full-court press to land free agent tight Ladarius Green Wednesday.
Coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert flew to Green’s hometown of Pensacola, Fla. on the first day of free agency and convinced the former San Diego Chargers to play for the Steelers.
Green had some offers to sign with other teams, but the positive vibes he got from Tomlin and Colbert, along with $20 million over four years, were enough to convince him to sign with the Steelers after spending the past four years as the backup to Antonio Gates in San Diego.
“I had some (offers), but everyone knows the Steelers, the history behind the team,” Green said. “Everybody has seen the offense as well. It wasn’t too hard of a choice.”
It’s clear Green was the Steelers’ first priority for outside free agents. He said the conversation he had with Tomlin and Colbert had him ready to play a game even though he is still months away from being able to compete due to offseason ankle surgery.
“He motivated me and wanted me to play then,” Green said. “He was awesome. He was excited. I’m excited. When everyone has confidence in you, you can get behind him and follow him.”
Green is known as more of a pass-catching tight end, but he said he is confident in his blocking abilities. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Green has the frame to add more weight and he is considering doing so in the next few months. He said he could get up to as much as 255 and still feel comfortable maintaining his speed, something he is known for.
Green once was viewed as the likely replacement to Gates in San Diego. Now he must replace another well-known tight end in Heath Miller, who retired last month.
“The most important thing he taught me was to be myself,” Green said. “I had to learn way back then not to try and follow in his footsteps. That’s what I’m going to apply here, not try to be heath. You can’t be heath. I’m just going to try to be myself here as well.”
Green said his ankle rehabilitation is ongoing, but he hopes to be ready for training camp.
The 25-year-old Green is coming off a career year with the Chargers in 2015 in which he set personal bests in receptions (37), yards receiving (429) and touchdown receptions (4) while playing splitting time with Gates.
Green downplayed any comparisons to Miller but he immediately vaults to the top of the depth chart ahead of veteran Matt Spaeth and young prospect Jesse James, a former Penn State standout.
The move continues to shore up an offensive front in need of replenishment. The Steelers re-signed veteran guard Ramon Foster on Wednesday. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum became a free agent on Wednesday though there’s a chance he could return.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.