Film Room: Jesse James Being Jesse James

I don’t think that I have even once taken a look at Jesse James so far during the regular season during my film study articles for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I know that I wrote one late in the preseason, but when I have looked at the tight end position, my eyes have admittedly been drawn more often to Vance McDonald.

It’s time to rectify that, and considering that we have had plenty of time to digest the last game, I thought it would be crazy if we didn’t eventually get to cover him at least once. The third-year tight end had something of a big game, by his standards, against the Lions, so why not?

It didn’t start off in particularly pretty fashion, though. On a first-quarter running play, for example, he was slow coming off the line out of a two tight end formation, as the inside end responsible for picking up the strongside linebacker. He failed to, and that linebacker made the tackle on Le’Veon Bell on second and six for no gain.

Later in the game, he was the lone tight end out of 11 personnel lined up to the left of the formation. Set on the outside shoulder of the end, James had to reach block in order to set himself up in front of the right end, but he accomplished the task, even if barely. He tends to have a lot of these plays in which he just barely gets the job done. But the job still gets done.

Unfortunately, he came back on the next play only to see himself rocked back by the end, pushing him into and clogging the running lane for James Conner, which helped attribute to the Lions limiting the rookie back to just a yard on the play.

But he came back at the end of the half with what should have been a play to set up a score, if not for an eventual fumble. Somehow the ball found its way to him through a tight window, showing good concentration to track and snag it, and then awareness and surprising burst to get to the edge for a career-long 32-yard reception.

Early in the third quarter, James caught a short pass over the middle and then took a hard shot that caused him to drop the ball. The helmet-to-helmet hit resulted in a penalty and a no-play for him.

He also had a 10-yard reception that moved the chains and was open for a fourth target on which he was overthrown in space, but that one worked out, because a 97-yard touchdown followed on the next play.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Steeler Nation!

    Year 3, I guess he is what he is at this point. VM is by far a better blocker. JJ needs to be able to use his size and help around the goal line. RIght now it’s looking iffy on him being a STEELER in ’18.

  • Sam Clonch

    Don’t see why he wouldn’t be around next year. He’ll be on the rookie contact still, and while clearly not the starter, no one is pushing him for the backup spot.

  • mem359

    Why say that? No need to drop him entirely. It might be iffy on him being a starter in ’18, but he makes a good backup (capable of starting if needed).

  • Steeler Nation!

    Maybe so. But he’s looking more like a future #3 TE than anything.

  • Darksealer1995

    Can we plz never throw to him. He literally is so slow when he gets the ball that it’s like a turtle trying to run. His legs r in cement and he’s awfullll. Start Vance and put James as the number 3 behind grimble.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Start Vance so he can run fast down the field and get wide open!!!! Only to drop it.

  • BRB4ever

    Heath wasn’t fast either but he was like a vacuum cleaner hoovering in the catches. Not many tight ends have speed. Look at Witten or Gonzales and both of them are HOF material.

  • Charles Mullins

    Its funny that you make this comment when he had a great catch with a ton of YAC. Should have held on to this comment for a week.. This was a awfulllll comment.

  • Charles Haines

    Kudos for using the little white circle to highlight the player in the GIFs, it makes a huge difference.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Agreed. Why would they keep him around when they’ll definitely upgrade that position via draft. VM stays, rookie, Xman stays.

  • Steeler Nation!

    I am not saying XG is better. I think he’s had his chances as well, and he is not better. I’d say that XG and/or JJ will be gone. Tomlin was right, they are both JV.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    I would. I’d still say Xavier Grimble is a better athlete and he is. The Edge goes to Grimble which doesn’t say much for that tight end position on the whole. It needs upgraded in general. They better do it because the window is here. They’ve got one more season to do it

  • Steeler Nation!

    More talented than JJ but softer, is the book on X. JJ isn’t the most physical guy around by any stretch but XG is poor.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Exactly! Don’t need speed to be an outlet that only has to find a hole in the zone and catch the ball when thrown to you.
    Vance can’t catch. Funny his best catch of the season was one everyone would have understood if he dropped it but he doesn’t catch any of the easier ones.

  • thomas hmmmm

    The team would be a fool to get rid of JJ when he is the best pass catching TE on the team. Vance should be relegated to the Spaeth role and only block or if on a passing play he should be the absolute last option.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Vance is the best of the 3 we have. Much better blocker and just needs to make the easy catches. After next years draft, JJ may be TE #3 at best.

  • Jeff Burton

    I must admit I was wrong about James. I thought he would have a break out season but he has regressed. Vance McDonald is not the answer, however. He has as many drops as he has catches at this point. He’s just one drop in the endzone away from a permanent place in Tomlin’s doghouse. The Steelers need to draft Mark Andrews of OK, Troy Fumgali of Wisconsin or Dallas Goedert of S Dakota St. They should be able to get one of them in the 3rd Rd. The answer to the Steelers TE situation is not currently on the roster.

  • Rocksolid20

    He’s the only TE we have that can stay healthy , ( Green , Old McDonald , Grimble )

  • Rocksolid20

    Not when he’s in the hot tub . Give me JJ .

  • thomas hmmmm

    How are you going to say he is the best and say he just needs to make easy catches? If he cant catch then he is only a good blocker and the speed is useless because they can let hin run down field uncovered knowing he will drop the ball. He is a speedy Spaeth and not even as good of a blocker and probably not even as good hands as Spaeth.

  • Steeler Nation!

    It’s not that hard. JJ is a terrible blocker. And apparently he doesn’t care. Our TEs have to block first, and make a few plays in the passing game. McDonald is so much better as a blocker, and capable of making bigger plays in the passing game. He will, and it won’t take much to be better than Jessie.

  • thomas hmmmm

    He has a catch percentage of 33% while James is at 71%.. Like I initially said, McDonald will run down the field wide open with no one covering him only to drop the ball. He is a terrible pass catcher and is no better than what Spaeth was except Spaeth was a better blocker than McDonald. With AB, MB and JuJu all you need from your TE to be is an outlet guy capable of making catches.. That is something that McDonald clearly isn’t. You don’t need the TE running down the seem for 30 yards.

  • Steeler Nation!

    A small sample of stats you’re basing everything on, for sure. Check out VM’s blocking vs JJ’s, not Matt Spaeths. It ain’t close. JJ has had 2 1/2 years to NOT improve much. His opportunities are slipping away. You may not be able to see it, but his coaches damn sure see it.

  • thomas hmmmm

    In that same breath you should have said Vance has had 5 seasons to become a better pass catcher but he hasnt. Grimble and JJ have better hands than Vance.

  • Steeler Nation!

    And neither can block worth a $hit. Which, if you haven’t noticed, is highly valued on the Steelers team. He will make as many places as either one of them in the passing game, and is more of a real tight end then either.