Ben Roethlisberger still hopeful he'll throw touchdowns to Ladarius Green

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are excited to incorporate Ladarius Green into their offense, but aren't sure when the injured tight end will be ready to play. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger has never had a tight end like Ladarius Green, in broader and literal senses.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' signing of Green to a four-year, $20-million offseason deal opened the possibilities of a vertical threat from the tight end spot. The retired Heath Miller was a great all-around tight end, but he wasn't a 6-foot-6 athletic freak like Green.

But the Green-Roethlisberger connection has remained grounded because of Green's offseason ankle surgery that has been slow to heal. Green hasn't participated in one practice during the offseason or preseason since signing the deal. Coupled with an NFL Network report of recurring headaches -- Green and coach Mike Tomlin have stressed that Green is on the physically unable to perform list for the ankle only -- Green's debut season in Pittsburgh is murky at best.

However, Roethlisberger remains hopeful the two will collaborate soon.

"Still excited about the possibilities (with Green)," Roethlisberger said. "He's still communicating with me on a daily basis, 'Hey Ben, what do you think about this? What do you want here? I think the mental side of it, he's on top of it."

Second-year tight end Jesse James, who caught eight passes and one touchdown as a rookie, is expected to start entering the third preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. Green told reporters over the weekend that his ankle is progressing, but isn't at full strength.

Green acknowledges he had concussions during his four-year stint in San Diego, where he backed up Antonio Gates. But he added that he's not sure where the report of him considering retirement came from. He wants to play.

Every day during practice, Green works off to the side with a trainer, doing light running and cutting.

During offseason workouts, Roethlisberger called Green a 'Ferrari' stuck in the impound lot. Does he still have a high-powered sports car at tight end?

"I hope so," Roethlisberger said. "Seen a lot of things from him, heard a lot of good things from other people about him."

The Steelers have the option to run more five-receiver sets in absence of a solidified starter at tight end.

Roethlisberger plans to play against New Orleans to find a rhythm with his offense, especially young receivers Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton.

"I think we’ve got the capability to do it," Roethlisberger said. "We’ve got running backs to come out, we’ve got backs, we’ve got the personnel to complement whatever we have out there. We need to be on the same page with everybody and be ready to go."