Jesse James Held Without Catch For Second Straight Week

Over the course of the past two games, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James has not caught a single pass. There were only two games throughout all of the 2016 season, including the playoffs, in which the tight end failed to catch at least one pass, so this is the first time since receiving significant playing time that he has failed to catch a pass in consecutive games.

Does it really mean anything? It’s hard to say from where we currently stand. It’s something that requires further data in order to draw an appropriate conclusion. But it is for the time being, at the very least, an interesting fact to note.

I did talk just yesterday about the fact that James’ role is seemingly being reduced. On Sunday, newcomer Vance McDonald played a significantly higher percentage of the team’s snaps during the first half, and the third-year tight end’s snaps only boosted in the second half after the former 49er left the game with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, McDonald was targeted three times in the game, catching two passes for more than 30 yards. The one target that he did not catch, admittedly, was a catchable ball on a back shoulder throw in the back of the end zone, but clearly the coaches believe he has more to offer in the passing game.

James has not simply failed to catch a pass; he has failed to garner a target. That does require a minor qualifier, however. He was not targeted on Sunday, but against the Chiefs, he did get a target on one play that was nullified by a penalty. He did not catch it.

The former fifth-round draft pick caught six passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener; since then, he has not been nearly as involved in the passing game. He did catch four passes for 27 yards the following week, and he has three receptions of at least 15 yards—though none of 20—but he is still averaging 8.3 yards per reception.

Through the first five games, he has come up with 18 receptions for 151 yards. His 18 receptions are still tied for the third-most on the team, behind Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and tied with Martavis Bryant, though rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is now just one catch behind him.

Interestingly, even Xavier Grimble was targeted on Sunday, and hauled in his first pass of the season, coming up with a 12-yard reception. McDonald has three receptions over the past two weeks for a combined 63 yards, giving the pair four receptions for 75 yards over the past two games.

Ultimately, I don’t think even the coaching staff really knows at the moment how the situation will play out at tight end. Nothing is set in stone, but they clearly would like to see McDonald take on a bigger role. That does not mean that there is no place for James as a contributor at the same time.

About the Author

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

    Someone needs to show Bryant the numbers of Stallworth and Swann their first few years. They weren’t eye popping either.

  • Kareem Daniels

    At 6’7” he needs to be on the field in the redzone

  • Kelly A

    He definitely needs to be out there. Say whatever you want about Martavis and his behavior but there is one thing that holds true about this year’s offense, that being it’s not playing to its full potential. The reason being that not everyone is involved (or perhaps Ben is having a hard time viewing the field and seeing his options). It’s great that they are having success at this point, but this offense in my humble opinion would be much more difficult to gameplan against if everyone was getting involved.

    I’m just gonna say this, when the Patriots come to town, this offense needs to have all their weapons there and ready; this new model of giving Bell in 35+ carries, and Ben throwing it to Brown 80% of the time, isn’t going to fly against Belichick, as he is good at taking a team’s strength and making it a weakness.

    After watching the clip Jesse yelling back at Danny Smith, I won’t be surprised if that has more to do with his frustration of not being made a part of the offense, than just Smith yelling at him.

  • francesco

    You’re making too much sense.


    This really should be a Haley thread.

    JJ is what is he is…imo he’s an average TE talent, effective mostly vs zone DEF, but he’s made himself a better blocker has has earned his snaps…for a TE I’d like to see his catch % higher, but 25 targets is not really enough.


    That’s for certain, but most of us are concerned that FGs might not be enough at some point and they could seemingly improve in the RZ if they employed more targets.

  • nutty32

    I will give JJ credit for being reliable and consistent to take the field and give it his all. Randy Grossman comes to mind.

  • will

    And you do not hear his girlfriend (or wife?) ranting how under appreciated he is. You do not hear how he wants to be traded. You do not hear how he thinks that he is better than MacDonald. You do not hear that he is just going to play out his contract.

  • EdJHJr

    Did James demand a trade. He should call espn and tell them

  • dany

    Jesse is not much in the passing game but I can’t recall him dropping many passes, unlike McDonald who’s been here half a season and I remember all his drops. In the redzone at least, he HAS to be targeted. McDonald’s presence, drop and all, should certainly a 6’7 tight end open at times

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    VM is a better blocker by far and far speedier with better yac ability. He is not as reliable a receiver but the end zone drop was quite a bit behind him and it looked like he didn’t see it until the last moment.

  • Steeler Nation!

    It was intentionally thrown behind him, as that was the only place to throw a catchable ball to him. He should’ve caught it. I like what VM can in Run and pass game, but he needs to catch the ball more consistently. That said, JJ is at his best when the field shrinks. 6’7 is almost always open. And when he’s standing in the EZ, YAC doesn’t matter.

  • Patricia McClary Harris

    Atta boy… that’s all that matters

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    So there seems to be a whole lot of unhappiness on that field concerning this offense at various times among various players. What they are doing is clearly unsustainable and the inability to score in the red zone makes absolutely no sense with these many weapons. But actually it does make sense when you view history and see the same Red Zone problem year after year after year with different players and different offensive coordinators. The common denominator seems to be the quarterback who has been here all these years but yet the offense still can’t score in the red zone. It is an obvious inability by the quarterback to diagnose defenses fast enough in quick small windows. And now and offense of coordinator who sees it as well apparently and has shrunk the Playbook based on Roethlisberger’s weaknesses in the red zone. So they could put Bryant James on the field but Roethlisberger probably won’t see them

  • Constantinople

    so what? Jesse James is “just a guy”,as far as tight ends are concerne

  • will

    And your point is…….???

  • Constantinople

    My point is that YOUR point is irrelevant.

  • will

    Why are you so nasty? I am sorry that things are not going as you would like. And evidently you have no point.