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Grimble ready to replace Green as Steelers' playmaking tight end

With Ladarius Green still experiencing difficulties and remaining in the concussion protocol, Xavier Grimble is ready for playoff duty.

PITTSBURGH -- Ladarius Green can't shake the concussion protocol.

The Pittsburgh Steelers tight end practiced twice this week but was held out Friday because, according to Mike Tomlin, "We didn't get the type of results we wanted. He still remains in the protocol. His status for the game is questionable."

That leaves the position in the same three-way split its been most of the season with Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and David Johnson, with Grimble in the Green-like playmaking niche.

"Pretty much so, right?" Grimble responded when asked about the role he appears to have carved for himself this season.

With James in the role of blocker and intermediate pass-catcher, and Johnson the move blocker, Grimble is the athletic playmaker built most like the injured Green.

The 6-4, 261-pound Grimble rose from the team's practice squad a year ago to catch 11 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns this season. He fought through a quadriceps injury that cost him three games and re-emerged with a 20-yard touchdown grab in double coverage to finish the Steelers' first possession and set up their division-clinching win over the Baltimore Ravens.

He also took a shot in the ribs that knocked him out of the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns, but he's healthy and ready to replace Green if necessary.

"I like to take on that role," Grimble said. "I feel like that's something I've been working on in the offseason, training camp. The coaches have mentioned it to me, too. Even at practice on the scout team since last year, they were like 'Make sure you get a lot of work in the red zone. Make sure you're watching different film, watching different techniques, getting real skilled in that area.' And I do feel it is an advantage for me, with all tight ends, with the size and some of the speed and athleticism that we have, it's just hard to stop. It would be very helpful to the team if I could be that guy."

Grimble had caught another 20-yard touchdown pass against another division rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, in the second game of the season, and also caught passes of 19, 11, 11 and 10 yards this season, a season of growth for a first-time player who caught 69 passes for 731 yards and 11 touchdowns at USC before bouncing around three other rosters from 2014-15.

"I've always been confident but you know I'm trying to work my way up," he said. "I came into this building working my way up from P-squad, just keeping my head down and working hard. I just want to keep making plays."

The more difficult task this week might be blocking Miami's 4-3 defensive ends. In the previous meeting, Cameron Wake beat James for a key sack.

"Coach said at beginning of the week: Tight ends versus D-ends," Grimble said. "Bigger, heavier, man. There's nothing nice about that line down there. ... Technique, as far as blocking, I don't feel it changes much. There's a solid way to do things. Just maybe a little different angle, a little bit different technique for a 4-3 as opposed to a 3-4 edge. It's not like we haven't seen it before. Cincy's got big ends, so do a couple of other teams."

Along with Green on the week-ending injury report are OLB Anthony Chickillo and and DE Ricardo Mathews, both out with ankle injuries. Safety Robert Golden (ankle) and ILB Vince Williams (shoulder) are questionable.

Link to interviews at Triblive


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