Film Room: Xavier Grimble’s Last Stand

Leading up to the bye week, second-year tight end Xavier Grimble found himself playing a more prominent role than he had been all season—and no doubt the biggest role he is likely to play for the rest of the season.

Due to a domino effect of injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers basically were left with no other warm bodies at tight end short of Grimble in order to pair with Jesse James, and they were heavily favoring the running game for much of that stretch run, which commands greater usage of personnel packages that feature multiple tight ends.

Presumably, Vance McDonald is healthy again, and so is Marcus Gilbert, so that most likely means that Chris Hubbard may at this point be more likely to see tight end snaps than Grimble, so with that in mind, consider this a tribute to his 2017 body of work.

The Steelers used him in a diversity of roles in the game against the Lions. At the top of their second drive, for example, they held him in for pass protection, holding his own against the defensive end, helping to produce an 18-yard pass.

On the next play, the Steelers brought out the 22 personnel but spread them four wide, leaving only Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Grimble was set out wide and drew the responsibility of the deep edge defender on what ended up as a three-yard run.

Somewhat later in the game, near the goal line, Bell picked up two yards on first down from the 11. Grimble had two responsibilities on this play. He first downblocked on the end before giving the linebacker a pop, but it wasn’t enough, as the defender absorbed it well and helped chase the back down.

Into the fourth quarter, on a running play up the middle, Grimble was able to wall off the linebacker, who bled out to the offensive left side after he motioned in that direction, on an eight-yard run. He similarly had a good block on the same defender, this time down the field, on a play that failed in the trenches.


Toward the end of the game, with the Steelers trying to bleed out the clock, the Steelers lined up both tight ends off the left side. Grimble drew in the linebacker coming off the edge, then had the presence of mind to peel off and pick up another defender crossing the field to help Bell gain six yards.

It was overall somewhat of an average, and typical, showing from Grimble, exhibiting both good and bad. Strong traits, yet inconsistency of execution. This has been his story throughout his career, including a couple of practice squad years, and that doesn’t seem to be on the brink of changing.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • nutty32

    wow, looking good. Still unsure whether to be on or off his bandwagon… He’s the new Shamarko Thomas.

  • HiVul

    I feel like we’re in a very weird situation with our TE group, especially when I think about after this year. And it’s because what you said about Grimble towards the end “strong traits, with inconsistent execution” applies to them all. McDonald is solid, except for his drops. JJ is an iconsistent blocker. And you just summarized Grimble.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    He’s Not that bad.

  • nutty32

    I always liked Shamarko, but he could never put it together, seemingly.

  • Jason Dock Dudley

    I only saw one bad block. Maybe we need to see his “bad” plays to draw a better conclusion.


    I like re-reading your last paragraph and then adding “and yet better things seem to happen when he’s in than when James or McDonald are in.”

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    So we know he’s a better blocker than Jesse J just off of those looks. I️ think he makes some pretty dynamic catches also. Jesse better watch out. It looks like a TE or S at th top of next years draft

  • Matthew Marczi

    The Steelers have had their most success moving the ball when McDonald has been on the field.

  • Hagen Rinde

    TE surely is top priority next year. Or better it should be.

  • walter

    No way. McDonald is our best blocking TE

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Definitely. McDonald is an upgrade over James and probably Grimble. Grimble blocks better than James, has just as good hands if not better, and takes just as many hard hits from difficult catches in the past. James is just an inch or two bigger and is a local guy. That’s it no other advantage over Grimble. Jesse James is no great loss.

  • Gautam Ramani

    JJ’s best asset has been his health. I think that will keep him around as a 2nd or 3rd TE. I agree with the other posters – was hoping for more development from JJ – have not seen it.

    In terms of draft, need to go BPA, though Steelers never do.


    That’s why “seem” is the operative word there.


    That’s why the operative word there is “seem.”

  • Patricia McClary Harris

    I think we are missing something with X. He does fairly well when called on for his lack of status as opposed to the 2 others that get so many more reps and hype. This week I’d like to see him thrown in the fire … what do we have to lose, based on the position so far.

  • Patricia McClary Harris

    Now that’s the Steelers truth

  • will

    The operative word may be “seam”.

  • capehouse

    McDonald doesn’t have good hands. He’s a choke artist. That’s why SF traded him away. Grimble misses as many blocks as James does too.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    That choke artist has a rrume that’s better than James. That’s why Pgh traded for him. LM has several 40+ receptions in his career and is capable of getting many more or longer. Far stronger than James and much Superior blocker. Lance McDonald will eventually improve his catching. James will continue to be slow and a week blocker. Grimble’s a better blocker than James. Jesse James is the worst blocking tight end on that team.

  • capehouse

    Bad hands don’t improve.