Film Room: Xavier Grimble’s Career Performance May Not Be Enough

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ acquisition of tight end Vance McDonald, it almost seems pointless to highlight the performance of Xavier Grimble in the team’s last preseason game, in large part because I expect that it will be the second-year tight end who gets the short end of the stick when it comes time to assemble the 53-man roster.

But he had arguably the best game of his entire career against the Colts on Saturday—albeit against backups during the second half—so I think it would only be fair to highlight his work, and the progress that it indicates, as he furthers his NFL career. A career that is now fairly likely to continue in another city.

Grimble was a presence early and often on the Steelers’ first drive of the second half, both as a blocker and as a receiver. On the first play of the drive, he led James Conner on their staple counter trap, getting to the edge and nudging two defenders to win the sideline. He pushed the second defender into a third defender, knocking both down.

On the next play, Grimble was assigned pass-protection duties—something he hasn’t been asked to do much in his time in Pittsburgh so far—and he held up fine, mirroring the edge rusher well, countering a rip move and only beginning to lose leverage late in the rep after the pass was thrown.

Several plays into the drive, it was his turn to contribute in the form of yards, and he picked up his first reception of the game—I think of the preseason in fact—running a simple route up the middle, running away from the linebacker late and making the concentration catch with soft hands between two defenders.

Just a play later, the second-year tight end demonstrated his improved strength, blocking the linebacker on a perimeter block along the play side. He showed power versus power at the point of contact and did well to prevent the defender from being able to move laterally toward the runner until he was clear.

Grimble capped off the drive two plays later with perhaps the highlight of his career to date, had it been a game that actually counted for something. Coming out of a receiving stance from the slot, he made a fantastic grab over the defender, but not before first selling the block inside five yards of the line of scrimmage. Credit to the quarterback as well for the well-placed ball.

He continued to play through late in the game, but one highlight block from later in the third quarter came blocking on the tight side for Terrell Watson. His build-up of power at the point of contact and explosion was impressive, jarring the linebacker and getting him on his heels. He continued to drive him back and outside the running lane.

The problem with all this above is the basic fact that this is not who Grimble has been throughout his career. This is Grimble in the best-case scenario, and it’s worth highlighting that this was against reserves. His training camp and preseason up to this point were far more lackluster, and his career inconsistency can see him off the roster again.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • RickM

    I guess the deal was that he could never show that quality much against 1st-stringers, and of course that’s what it’s all about in the NFL. I agree that he’ll likely be moving on. He still has youth on his side and if he gets more opportunities elsewhere, maybe he’ll get by his somewhat stalled development.

  • Xclewsive

    Get rid of David Johnson. Grimble,James and Vance are good enough blockers and better pass catchers

  • Ray3

    Picking Grimble as the odd man out may be a bit premature. It’s likely they keep Jesse James, so David Johnson and Grimble look to be the choices. Johnson is 30 years old and is pretty much a 1 trick (blocking) pony. Since Vance Joseph can block and Grimble looks like he might do OK with James being passable, they may decide to let Johnson go in favor of a younger athletic guy with upside that they like. Grimble might stay. Also, Jake McGee has flashed with blocking and is reported to have good hands. Having Vance Joseph, unless he is another of the Steelers “don’t pan out” trades might result in a surprising TE room. How about Joseph, James and McGee with Grimble on the PS? This could get pretty interesting.

  • Charles Mullins

    I tink Mcgee is going to the PS. Not getting any burn in game 3 was surprising. I am interested to see how much he plays in game 4. XG did specifically mention putting stuff on tape during his interviews. He might already be thinking about playing somewhere else.

  • TMP_22903

    This is so helpful and appreciated for those of us who can’t view the games. Thanks, Matthew.

    Obviously the unforeseen acquisition of another TE complicates things – up until now we appeared to be rolling with Jesse James, David Johnson, and Xavier Grimble. I honestly think that group is better than they get credit for (although I recognize there ins’t a “true #1 TE” as Depot writers and members have been suggesting).

    If I had to make the call, I would reluctantly choose Grimble over Johnson. I know DJ is a great blocking TE but we do have Hubbard and Nix to help with pass blocking and run blocking. I would be sad to see David Johnson go, considering his accomplishments doing so much dirty work for us, but I suspect it would be just like when we let Will Johnson go. I was sad for a moment, for similar reasons, and then excited for the newer younger men to see what they might accomplish.

    And Grimble looks like a capable blocker, with a legit upside as an offensive weapon. (Think about his impressive TD catches in wins against the Bengals and Ravens last year! Big time contributions to winning football in must-win games against bitter division rivals…)

    I would actually feel pretty excited about a TE group of Jesse James, Vance McDonald, and Xavier Grimble (with McGee on PS). I think that gives us three promising young players, with slightly differing skill sets and physical attributes.

    And for those who are concerned we don’t have a “true #1 TE” — we really don’t need a elite TE likes of a Travis Kelce or Jimmy Graham or Gronk. We have ABUNDANT receiving firepower with AB, Martavis, and Bell and shifty, reliable targets in Eli and JuJu. We just need a solid complimentary TE and a guy who can take advantage of all the attention being given as other teams key in on 84, 26, and 10.

  • nutty32

    That TE room was probably not a very happy place all camp. MT must have been chewing them out directly for a long time for him to be so publicly forward at the presser. Are they hiding McGee to get him past waivers? I’d cut the TE with the worst work habits & guessing, that’s Grimbles.

  • Matthew Marczi

    He did get like…3 or 4 snaps at the end of the game when Dobbs checked in. But even Odom played more. I’m sure he’ll play a lot tomorrow though.

  • Charles Mullins

    Yeah, any talk of any injury last week for him?

  • Matthew Marczi

    No, I just think they wanted to get a long look at James in the first half and Grimble in the second. Looks like McGee will get a year of seasoning on the practice squad, but I’m already looking forward to seeing his potential growth next year. If he makes some plays on special teams tomorrow he could push for a spot though.

  • Charles Mullins

    Grimble looked good to. He made some money. Not sure from who, but he is richer because of that game.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Definitely a good chance I think that he gets claimed.