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Steelers' Green practices, not expected to play Sunday

| Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, 2:18 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Ladarius Green during practice Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Ladarius Green during practice Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Counting summer workouts, training camp and the regular season, the Steelers have had about 100 practices during the 2016 season.

Ladarius Green has been a full participant in fewer than 20.

He likewise has played just six of the Steelers' 22 games.

For Green, it's been a frustrating first 10½ months as part of the organization.

“It's been rough, real rough,” the playmaking tight end said Friday in his first public comments in more than a month. “But I am still happy to be here. I can't complain. I just have to take it day to day.”

He's spent more than eight months recovering from an injury since he signed.

Green practiced Friday, but he did not take reps with the first-team offense, and he is not expected to play in Sunday's AFC championship game. Though officially listed as questionable against New England, Green remains in the NFL's concussion protocol.

It's another disappointment in a long line of frustrations for Green since he signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Steelers.

First, it was an ankle slow to rehab from offseason surgery that prevented Green from taking part in OTAs and minicamp.

It landed him on the physically unable to perform list when training camp opened.

He stayed on PUP until Nov. 12. The following week — after his Steelers game debut — a minor knee injury affected his practice participation.

Finally, things began looking up when Green eased into a role and became the big-play threat the Steelers were seeking when they gave him one of the biggest contracts they've handed out to an unrestricted free agent. Green had six catches of at least 28 yards over a four-week span beginning Nov. 24.

Late in a Dec. 18 win at Cincinnati, a brutal-looking hit by the Bengals' George Iloka gave Green a concussion. He hasn't played since.

“Regular football hit, I guess,” Green said. “I know George. I know he didn't try to do it.”

Green did not practice the final two weeks of the regular season, but he was a full participant for the first two practices of the week leading up to the wild-card playoff game against Miami.

Then, there was an apparent setback in the protocol. He didn't practice Jan. 6, didn't play against the Dolphins on Jan. 8 and didn't practice again until Wednesday.

This week, of all things, a stomach bug that's running through the Steelers locker room prevented Green from practicing Thursday.

He was back inside the indoor facility Friday, but …

“I was just out there in practice. I really didn't do too much,” Green said. “Just running around.”

Said coach Mike Tomlin: “He had a great positive day today, but he's still in the protocol.”

Green repeatedly deferred to Tomlin when asked about his prospects of playing Sunday. Green's words don't inspire much confidence.

“Of course, I want to play, but I am just taking it day by day and seeing whatever the coaches want me to do,” he said. “That's not my decision.”

Green pleaded ignorance to the details of concussion protocol, saying he is “just doing whatever they tell me to do … I don't argue with them. It's all part of the process.”

A bright side when it comes to Green?

“The ankle feels great,” he said. “A lot better than I was expecting.”

Without Green, Jesse James reclaimed his status as the No. 1 tight end, with David Johnson and Xaiver Grimble contributing. James has 12 catches in four games since Green's concussion.

Through it all, Green has kept a positive attitude, his teammates said.

“I just know that he wants to be a part of it,” said Johnson, who played with Green the past two seasons in San Diego. “He's a competitor, and he wants to be out there with the guys. He loves football.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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