Jesse James With Important Positive Plays Heading Into Second Half Of Season

What happened to the Outlaw? It seemed for a couple of games that he had disappeared from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive game plan. He went two straight games without even seeing an official target—he had one target two games ago that he did not catch, which was negated by a penalty—the first time since entering the lineup he failed to catch a pass in consecutive games.

Jesse James, the third-year tight end, was able to find his spots last night, however, hauling in two key catches that the Steelers promptly spoiled both times, oddly enough.

On the first play, Ben Roethlisberger connected with him on a short pass on second and seven that picked up 10 yards and a first down, out across midfield. On the next play, the quarterback promptly threw the ball into triple coverage looking for his favorite target, which resulted in the ball being picked off.

Late in the second half, on first down from the Steelers’ 36, Roethlisberger really threaded the needle through a tight window to James, who made the catch—which was probably difficult to even locate—and promptly discovered the most daylight he has ever seen in his career, actually picking up some speed on a 32-yard gain.

Then Le’Veon Bell fumbled the ball three plays later just outside of the red zone, losing possession. So clearly it’s a bad idea to throw James the football, because now whenever they do, they quickly turn the ball over soon after that.

I kid, of course, but I do think that it was something of an important game for James, who seemed to be losing his role in the offense, with Vance McDonald increasingly creeping into his snap count. The fifth-year tight end out-snapped him in the first half a week ago by a comfortable margin, but left early in the second half.

McDonald was out for yesterday’s game, which left the vast majority of the tight end responsibilities up to James, as he had been for the majority of the past 24 games. While it will take some deeper evaluation than his possible while writing 11 articles between 11:30 PM on Sunday night and 6 AM on Monday morning, it seemed that he generally played well all around.

McDonald was beginning to win a greater percentage of the primary blocking assignments, beginning to see more work in single-tight-end packages. This one showing is not going to prevent that trend from continuing on the other side of the bye week.

But I think that it is always important for players who seem to be losing something of their role that they take advantage of every opportunity that is even, which is why I feel this was something of a key win for James. And it should have been an even bigger day had Roethlisberger not significantly overthrown him late in the game, though it worked out for the better in the long run, since it preceded JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard touchdown on the following play.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • The Tony

    Three weeks in a row that a Steelers tightend has produced a splash play

  • Jeff Dudash

    It felt like Roethlisberger was throwing more underneath crossing routes last night than previously, and I liked that. James, in particular, could be more effective if he’s used that way.

    It was a weird game. I never felt like we were going to lose, even though the game was in doubt for a long time. Both sides of the ball looked like they were in control and even though there were mistakes (turnovers and missed catches on offense; a lot of chunk plays against the defense), they were managed well. Great win!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Jesse James reminded me on why I really liked the draft pick! Hopes he continues!

  • thomas hmmmm

    IMO the offense operates better with James in the game. Especially the passing offense.

  • Conserv_58

    I was so happy for the Outlaw yesterday. Seeing him make a couple of clutch catches along with providing good blocks in the run game was great for him and the team.

  • falconsaftey43

    He’s been out there all the time, 83% of snaps. Only Bell/AB have played more.

  • pittfan

    Stafford is a scary dude with the ball in his hands.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Not the previous two games though.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    If Ben did not overthrow him, JJ would have ended up with 60 yards plus on 3 catches. I contend the TE’s could easily have these types of numbers if they threw to JJ more often. Even if the stat was more boring, like 4 or 5 catches for 40-50 yards, I would take it. I just wish they would spread the ball around more. Last night was a very good sign that they wish to do just that. We can only hope.

  • PA2AK_

    I thought statistically they have been better with VM? Think I read that here. Kudos to JJ though. I’ve been doggin him for ‘running in mud’ but he had a really good game for sure

  • mezzetin1

    And has SO much hardware to show for it… Geeez…….

  • pittfan

    It is a team game you know.

  • thomas hmmmm

    I have no clue about the stats and maybe the stats mentioned here just refer to the run game. I have no clue to be honest. But from my eyeball test it seems the passing game is better with JJ in the game. He definitely has better hands than VM. VM has had too many passes bounce off his hands.
    Aside from the Jags game who have arguably the best secondary in the league. The passing O just seems more dynamic with JJ in there and I think Ben has more confidence in JJ..
    That catch and run JJ had was an amazing catch that I have no clue how that ball got through the defenders hands.

  • Matt Manzo

    That’s what I thought this year was gonna be all about! Spreading the ball around to all our amazing weapons.
    I’m still not sure why it hasn’t clicked?! Ben’s accuracy and Haleys play calling seem to be the weekly discussions.