Roethlisberger Says Jesse James Took McDonald Trade ‘Personal’

The biggest winner in the Vance McDonald might have somehow ended up being…Jesse James. A clearly highly motivated James had one of the best games of his career, becoming the first Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end to score twice in a game since Heath Miller in 2012.

Appearing on the Cook and Poni Show on 93.7 The Fan this afternoon, Ben Roethlisberger says he’s seen a new Jesse James. A man who was not happy with seeing the Steelers add another tight end.

“I think Jesse has benefited the most of anyone from the Vance trade,” Roethlisberger told the show. “He kinda took it personal. He has performed in practice above standards, if you will. He’s gotten much better, he’s running faster, he’s doing more things, his play has really picked up.”

James’ first touchdown, a crucial 3rd and goal from the four, highlighted an area he’s struggled in throughout his career. Combative red zone catches. But James made a great play in the end zone, wrestling the ball away and completing the catch.

“I preach with Jesse. He’s bigger and stronger than most people. He’s got big, strong hands. He needs to use his hands and own the ball when it comes to him in the end zone. There are too many times I get on him in practice where a DB or someone will knock it out of his hands. And I’m like, ‘you’re too strong, no one should be able to get the ball out of your hands.’ And he listened.”

On that play, James was the stronger, more physical player, and got the Steelers their first offensive points of the season. He finished the day with six catches for 41 yards, both of which were second on the team, and those two scores.

“I think that shows the growth in Jesse. The comfort and trust I have with him. I was so happy to see it. I was through the roof pleased with the catch by him.”

James later caught another touchdown on 3rd and goal from the two, a middle screen the team repped the heck out during camp. While McDonald didn’t see a ton of snaps and seemed to struggle, he had a drop and a holding call, James figures to dominate the reps this Sunday provided he can continue to make plays like that.

The red zone is where the Steelers needed James to thrive. So far, so good.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • He had a good game, but this is not time to get complacent. Keep working hard Outlaw!

  • Talyn Scarbrough

    If jj can keep it up, tight end may no longer be a worry

  • Chris92021

    Good. He should take it personal. He was getting too comfortable in his position. The team gave James the keys by not drafting any TEs in April, not bringing in a veteran like Barnidge during the summer, cutting Ladarius Green….and he still did not improve. McDonald is a very strong athlete who will probably take snaps away from James once he gets acclimated to the offense. However, James should continue to work hard and get open.

    BTW Sunday was the first time James not only had a 2 TD game but also the first time he caught TD passes on the road. Steelers are 5-0 when James gets a TD catch (more for the stats of the weird!)

  • Nolrog

    Good. Maybe it will help him take his game to the next level.

  • srdan

    I appreciate the two TD catches. I think we need a tight end to help us when teams play us like the browns did. Taht middle of the field has to be effective. Last year Green really helped when he was around. Jesse is just not athletic enough to get there. But that juke he had vs the browns was serious!

  • falconsaftey43

    This is what James needs to do consistently. He doesn’t need to put up huge yards if he can consistently convert 3rd downs, score some TDs, and catch a high % of the passes that do come his way. He didn’t do those things consistently last year, let’s hope game 1 is the new Jesse James.

  • Big White

    He should have. The guy just keeps producing and getting better and the James Haters can take that pathetic YAC stat they throw around and put it where the sun don’t shine. Results matter.

  • FATCAT716

    Hell yeah

  • nutty32

    Sold game from JJ, but still looking to see McDonald yac it up. Sendajo & their mlb are liabilities in the passing game. I’m beginning to think McDonald has makeup issues, not an alpha. He may need more time to feel comfortable and let God’s gifts to take over.

  • Applebite

    I don’t dislike James, but being that McDonald is an option waiting in the wings, there’s no way they’re going to keep him on the bench, once he gets an understanding of his duties in this offense.

  • treeher

    Love the competition. Put ’em both out there in a two tight end formation.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Will be interesting to follow their snap counts as season progresses. Against Browns; James played 90% of the offensive snaps; McDonald 30%

  • Ed Smith

    Want to start off with I am NOT a JJ hater. Have been behind him since he was drafted. I have to point out though that hopefully he has learned now to be a professional, in the mold of an Antonio Brown (Harrison, etc.). It appears, according to Ben’s description, that JJ was not putting in the effort/work in practice, likely because he was resting on his laurels since as another poster wrote below that we didn’t draft a TE after Green cut. Antonio has no competition on this team (or any team) and he gives 100%+ on EVERY rep in practice (saw that in Latrobe).
    Hopefully JJ takes this experience and becomes a better player going forward. Would be great to have 2 TEs that are more than competent and are threats. It will only make the team better. Reality is JJ brought the trade upon himself by not doing all the things he needed to be doing before VM showed up. Young man, learning opportunity. Now keep it up JJ!!

  • stan

    James has struggled with combative red zone catches? I don’t agree with that.
    Either way, based on the reports on this site James needed to step up his play and the McDonald trade accomplished that (and added more talent to the roster), so it was a good deal in more than one way.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I love everything about this article. I love that we signed Vance. I love that Jesse took it personal. I love that instead of whining, Jesse went out and put in extra effort and performed better. I love that Ben threw to Jesse more in the red zone. I love that Ben made all this known to the media. I love that defenses have to plan for 2 TE’s now (in addition to the killer B’s). I love that we won the game.

  • thomas hmmmm

    No one should consider these guys experts.. LOL It’s like they work for Nike in an Asian sweatshop churning out article after article.. Like Nikes each article has its flaws. Dave’s got the whip on them but Dave isn’t proof reading any of this stuff which is bringing the overall quality down.

  • Steelerfan4lifeinAZ

    Until i see Jesse James get more physical in the middle of the field by breaking tackles and not falling down on the first defender that touches him, I’m not going to anoint him yet as becoming a good TE. Show some YAC and then maybe I will jump on the bandwagon. Let’s see what he does against the Vikes

  • Josh

    and that Ben gave him that pep talk. nobody puts your hands in a corner! nobody! er something like that.

  • Guest12

    I’m usually on the same page as you with your comment, but in this case I think it’s a little different. In the past we needed a TE that could get some YAC, and most teams are that way. But with the weapons we have, as long as he is catching everything or just about everything thrown his way, it will keep the defense’s honest and just give them one more weapon to worry about. Now the redzone is certainly the one area his YAC needs to be good, but as long as he can keep the defense honest between the 20’s then make his catches in the rezone, he should be alright.

  • Jacob

    I am glad he is doing well, but why wasn’t he this motivated before the signing? He is a native.

  • Guest12

    You may be on to something there, if I’m not mistaken the games in which Heath caught a TD we hardly ever lost

  • Guest12

    Exactly. We have plenty of YAC guys, as long as he is making his catches between the 20’s and is a threat in the redzone, he will be just fine.

  • Guest12

    To be fair. Only Julio and OBJ would give AB competition. Any other WR in the league is a clear cut #2 with AB on the roster

  • Besd1

    You know the big difference between these articles and Nikes? You pay for your Nikes. You don’t pay a thing for these articles. They come to your waiting mind absolutely free of charge. As far as I know, the writers volunteer their time too. Of course, you could always volunteer an article yourself. Let us all see what real quality looks like.

  • Guest12

    Not so sure I love how Ben put out to the media (and all those who listen to the media) that we have a plan to throw the ball in the redzone more. I noticed last year they kept running their mouths about how we were using the passing game to open up the run game. Yea sure teams can notice that in film, but let that be where they figure it out, in the film room . Don’t voice every week what the game plan was for this week and then use the same game plan the week before.

  • Guest12

    How long is it going to take for them to pick up the phone and do this:

    “Heath!, long time man, how’s it been?”
    “Been doing good coach, loving the family time!”
    “Ahh, that’s great. So when do you think you can start coaching up these TE’s over here?”
    “ehh, let me see what the wife says?………… She thinks that’s a stupid idea….See you Tuesday, coach!!”

  • Alex Kozora

    Yes, he has. Ben has said it himself.

  • Alex Kozora

    If we’re the Nike of Steelers content, I’m pretty happy with that. You should be too.

  • Do you think anyone in the league didn’t already expect with our roster that we plan to throw in the redzone more? That was hardly news.

  • YAC isn’t what we need from a TE. Solid hands, 3rd down conversions, blocking and Red Zone play are.

  • will

    Go Jessie!!!

  • Dshoff

    Speaking of making things obvious, does anybody else wonder why we run that empty backfield so much? I just think that it gives the defense one less thing to think about. Even if we had a rb back there he could still go out to catch a pass. I don’t like it especially near the goal line. That just lets the secondary play pass, and the pass rushers pin their ears back not even having to think about the run. Alex, what do you think?

  • Dshoff

    I was impressed with the new Jesse “Barry Sanders” James. 🙂 Just joking but it was a nice move that I’ve never seen him do before.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Maybe you didn’t understand the analogy and maybe you don’t remember Nike when they actually made quality sneakers. Either way it went over your head.
    You guys are the asians in the sweatshop making item that the boss sells for 100 times the cost of making it while paying you 5 cents for a 12 hour day. Not only that but the quality of the product you are making is falling due to the overworking and no oversight.

  • thomas hmmmm

    I don’t volunteer anything that someone else will make money off of. That’s foolish.
    I imagine you guys are all college kids trying to get something to put on your resumes and if that is the case, make sure you edit your work because no one else does here and the flaws stick out like a sore thumb.
    Otherwise you will stay a volunteer journalist and would be better off volunteering your time at a soup kitchen or something that actually makes a difference to someone.
    If you understood the analogy then you wouldn’t take offense to what was said.

  • Guest12

    Playing 5 wide at the goal line is a little confusing, but you also want to mix it up for certain teams sometimes. However, running 5 wide between the 20’s isn’t that bad, especially with our personnel. You still have to cover 5 studs, and the possibility of a screen in a 5 wide is still an option, and we’re famous for plugging in the screen game to replace the run game (i.e week 1).

  • Guest12

    Well other than Bryant, we practically have the same roster on offense as last year. Justin Hunter was inactive for week 1 and I would assume that will be a norm for much of the season. We didn’t do very much in the redzone last season, again with virtually the same personnel. While it still is somewhat obvious, you want to make them figure it out, not give them the game plan on a silver platter. Just my opinion. Keep the other teams out of your game room as much as you can.

  • Besd1

    I’m not one of the journalists here.

  • SfSteeler

    no doubt…

    you can never anoint or give that impression to someone who hasnt earned or performed in there expected role because some will get complacent…

    i like Jesse, its just that, he plays football and it just looks like hes watching and not playing when hes on the field…the same could be said with Cortez Allen, he just looked like he was dosed most of the time…

    anyway, good game, but there are 18 more to go, so take it as a challenge and push yourself there son!

  • Besd1

    And I’m definitely not a college kid.

  • Alex Kozora

    This is my full time job. I’m getting paid well enough. I’m looking over our traffic numbers and it seems to disagree with your idea people are running away.

  • mezzetin1

    Yes times eight.

  • Charles Mullins

    If you look at the tipped pass that AB caught JJ was step for step with him sprinting down the field. He may look slow but it’s because he is so damn tall.

  • Conserv_58

    I’m glad that Jessie took umbrage with what coach Tomlin said because in the end it was the just motivation he needed to step his game up to the varsity level. He and the team are better off for it.

  • Conserv_58

    Uh, I beg to differ. Last season, Jessie had the lowest YAC numbers of any TE in the league. Seeing him run for more than four to five yards after a catch would be an improvement. Seeing DB’s clinging to him as he runs for tough yards would be something we haven’t seen yet too.

  • Conserv_58

    Jessie was saying to himself, “I’m varsity. I’m varsity. DANG IT, I’m varsity!

  • Jaybird

    The guy puts you down and your product down , yet he’s always posting on this site? The guy is miserable and rude. Don’t sweat it Alex. The vast majority of us appreciate the site and its content and the staff’s contributions.

  • Shane Mitchell

    According to Ben, Jesse James started running faster after the McDonald trade? tells me all I need to know about Jesse James.

  • Chris92021

    31-10 when Heath caught a TD pass. 3-1 in the playoffs.

  • MC

    With his tall frame I don’t think any DB is going to take him high, which means I wanna see him hurdle someone, that will surely get the YAC yards needed.

  • MC

    James needs to show this week in and week out. With defences zoning in on AB, MB and LB, this should leave some nice soft spots in zones open for him every game. His YAC yards are a problem but if he can make catches for first downs and touch downs more often then the YAC won’t be a concern.

  • Lil Smitty

    I would rather have 3 yard catches that convert 3rd downs and make TDs than 20 yards after each catch. If those catches don’t result in TDs.

  • RickM

    “Miserable” and “rude” probably says it best, although “ignorant” is also floating around in my head. I love the ‘peanut gallery’ who expect multiple articles from these guys every single day. And even when they get them, they nitpick any typo they see.

    The guy himself has three typos in his first three sentences and he’s criticizing others for their proof-reading skills? Seriously? I agree that the guys do a great job. Thankfully they don’t have to deal with many people like this.

  • Zarbor

    Guess JJ did not like being called JV…..He looked it in preseason. Glad he took it personal and responded. Lets see how long.

  • Steve

    Sometimes it takes players around you to make you a better person. Ben called Jessie out and he responded.

  • Steve

    Competition sometimes brings out the best in people. This may be what JJ needed. Can you imagine what the Steelers can do with two Big capable TE’s?

  • Brenton deed

    Sometimes you’re trying as hard as you can and giving it 100% or think you are… then you get a shock like the Mac Donald signing and find that you had more that you didn’t know you had.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    He’s running faster??? So, he didn’t need to be that slow this whole time? Whew then..

    Playing.. I like James.