Tomlin Believes ‘Better Days Lie Ahead’ For Steelers TE Jesse James

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James certainly won’t be going to the Pro Bowl anytime soon but with that obvious fact out of the way, the Penn State product has shown some improvement in all areas of his game in just his second season in the league.

In the Steelers Sunday Wild Card win over the Miami Dolphins, James made a few key plays that certainly were noticeable.

The first one came during the 50-yard catch and score by wide receiver Antonio Brown on a simple screen play and included James getting to the edge and effectively walling-off two Dolphin defenders to clear a path down the left sideline for his teammate.

The second play James made against the Dolphins included him recording his only reception of the game and he did so in quite a peculiar way.

On 1st and 10 from the Dolphins 30-yard-line with 1:23 left in the first half, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made an ill-advised short throw to James near the middle of the field that probably should have been intercepted by Dolphins defensive lineman Earl Mitchell, who had dropped into coverage after the snap of the football. The ball, however, bounced off of Mitchell’s shoulder pad and the 6-7 James snatched it out of the air with two hands and secured it above his head as multiple Dolphin players attempted to jar it loose.

During his Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was surprisingly told by a member of the media that “he has to be satisfied” with James’ progress in his second year in the league.

“I don’t have to be [satisfied],” Tomlin replied. “He did some good things, but if you ask Jesse, he’ll tell you, like I feel, his better days lie ahead. He’s a really cerebral young guy. He’s always in control of his emotions. He takes an analytical approach to preparation and getting better, and I think that approach is going to aide him. He did some good things in that game (Miami), but boy, he’s continually evolving, as are we all.”

After catching just 8 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown during 2015 rookie season, James caught 39 passes for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns in the recently concluded 2016 regular season. While his receiving numbers did increase, it’s probably worth noting that his 8.7 yards per catch average was still lower than any season average that former tight end Heath Miller ever posted during his 11 seasons in Pittsburgh.

While James has indeed improved this season as a blocker, nobody is going to dare compare that part of his game to that of former Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth, who played 9 seasons in the NFL.

As Tomlin indicated Tuesday, better days hopefully still lie ahead for James with a few of those maybe coming in the remainder of the playoffs and starting Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

  • Petherson Silveira

    That block for AB84 was fantastic.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Love Outlaw! He’s gotta get stronger, imo, but I like what I’ve seen from him this season. He’s made some pretty clutch catches down the stretch!

  • pittfan

    +1. I think he’s coming along just fine. He played a very key role down the stretch against the dirtbirds.

  • His pass blocking will always be suspect, but his run blocking has improved immensely.

    Who would have though that he could get better at it over the course of the year.

  • pittsburghjoe

    We clearly wiffed on LG. His on-going availability is suspect. When he is on the field its like putting a china plate in the middle of a construction site and hoping for the best. We can only hope to squeeze the most out of James.

  • RickM

    Yeah, 3 catches for about 40 yards on the most critical drive of the season and he caught all of them cleanly. The pressure of the moment wasn’t too big for him. His future is bright.

  • unfurious

    I love what he did in this game. The whole time AB ran down the field, I was thinking about that block. It was beautiful. When he held that ball up over his head like a big brother, I was caught between laughter and panic. When he stands out, he really stands out. I’m loving the kid. And if he is the cerebral kid that Tomlin says he is, I would expect that he recognizes his deficiencies and will surprise us with new strengths in coming seasons.

  • Big White

    That play is was one of those “small details” that coaches harp on all the time. I really like this kid. I was iffy on him and Green’s injuries opened the door for him to mature. A 5th Round pick which in some cases don’t even make rosters after being drafted. Trending.

  • SwagDaddy330

    Please quit saying “HEEEEEAAAAATH” when he catches the ball. It’s dumb.

  • Jason

    It really is. At first I thought it was just some uneducated fans who legitimately didn’t know Heath retired. Now it’s borderline disrespectful to Jesse.

  • Green and James make a nice tandem for 12 personnel. This offense has and embarrassment of riches. That’s not even counting Bryant, let’s hope he stay clean and get reinstated so he can play next year.

    It’s ridiculous how much horse power this offense can have. Hat’s off to Colbert as it’s master architect. That defense is coming along nicely too.

  • DirtDawg1964

    Pretty sure they are saying Jeeeeesssssseeeeee actually. That’s what it sounds like to me.

  • John Pennington

    Jesse is a young player still learning the game give him time he will be ok.

  • Kick

    One of the best I have ever seen.

  • pittfan

    Yup, he made himself available when Bens 1st and 2nd options were taken away. He “found grass” as Alex likes to say.

  • Jason

    I’d like to see something on his blocking, has it gotten better?

  • Paul RK

    lighten up Francis……..

    Oct 9, 2016
    “I like it, I enjoy it. It’s tradition, especially a guy like Heath,” James said. “Being able to honor him each and every week in the stadium is awesome.”

  • Paul RK

    Oct 9, 2016
    “I like it, I enjoy it. It’s tradition, especially a guy like Heath,” James said. “Being able to honor him each and every week in the stadium is awesome.”

  • Lil Smitty

    Did he learn that from Leveon and Martavis?

  • Lil Smitty

    I am thinking he is very young as in still 22 in his second year. It is possible that he could get thicker and stronger over the next couple of years, which would help him on the field. Most men don’t finish bulking up until about 24.
    (Then there are some of us that have never stopped!)
    I can see Jesse becoming a better all around Tight End within the next couple of years. He may never make the Probowl, but he could help the team win many games with over-all good play.

  • pittfan


  • Michael Mosgrove

    his pass protection needs work.

  • Applebite

    Needs to hit the weights more….He’ll get there eventually. Not as if he’s been around 4-5 years already.

  • razaard2

    Project 5th round pick Jesse James’ biggest problem will always be that he isn’t 1st round pick and best TE in Steelers history Heath Miller.
    But for a “long term project”, he definitely is a hell of a productive Jesse James

  • Jason

    I said I thought it was disrespectful not Jesse. In the end I suppose his opinion is all that matters but I sure wouldn’t want the crowd screaming someone else’s name every time I caught the ball, regardless of how much I respect Heath.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    When I am watching at home I always go “faaaaake Heeeeaaaath” when he catches the ball. And then when we get the rare David Johnson I go “blaaaaack Heeeeaaath”. I dunno man, I really liked Heath and I like these 2 guys as well. I think it is just something to have fun with.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    For my money I have always thought he was a bit underrated already by many, including you guys here at Depot. Not saying that in a bad way, I just think from what he flashed early that he could very easily become a realiable number 1 TE for us.

    Just go back to the early draft talk (before Greene was signed) and Hunter Henry was a name being thrown around a lot. I wanted nothing to do with that lol. It is true, he has some work to do but I am 100% with Tomlin on this. I think we are going to see some really good JJ games.

  • Aj Gentile

    What about when grimble catches the ball?

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I am too shocked that he actually caught it to come up with anything lol.

  • StolenUpVotes

    Outlaw is pretty dang good on those screens.

  • StolenUpVotes


  • NinjaMountie

    I think if James can really solidify his run blocking he can become a very serviceable TE1. His ypc will go up with more experience and the Steelers using him in different ways. He’s shown great hands and will only get better. He’s very young and, I believe, will be with this team for a very long time.

  • Axe Skot

    Loved that catch he made over the middle with 3 guys around that could very likely have ended up as an interception.

  • popsiclesticks


  • Rotten Sircus

    The “Outlaw” is only in his 2nd season & he’s getting better ! The catch he made in the Dolphins game should not get overlooked. I like him in the redzone offense and the long term replacement of Heeeeeeeaaaatthhhh !!!

  • Gloria Burke

    Loved his reaction ….watching the end of the play on the big screen. Took him a while to get out there, lol, but once he did, job well done. Also his fingertips catch off the tip was funny to watch…kind of like the game of hot potato we played as kids…

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    Holding on to that ball was impressive.

  • Petherson Silveira

    The way that he reach blocked the CB and then was going to next level the same time that he blocked the last defender that could tackle AB, i loved it.