Jesse James Turns In Career Day With Steady, Reliable Performance

Well, well, well, who knew that tight end Jesse James had it in him? the third-year tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers came up big for his team on Sunday night, in case you missed it, having a career day with 10 receptions for 97 yards, just missing out on a rare 100-yard game. Even the great Heath Miller only had a handful of those.

But it wasn’t the stat line that won the game for the Steelers. It was the clutch moments. I feel as though I have been among James’ harshest critics over the course of the past two seasons, but, as I wrote during the game on Twitter, he had the biggest moment of his career up to this point.

The Penn State product was a frequent and reliable target, hauling in 10 of the 12 passes officially credited as having gone in his direction. The only two blemishes on his resume consisted of a seeming miscommunication—albeit on third down—and a pass broken up by Eric Weddle on second and one at the 11-yard line.

He caught everything else, and that includes three consecutive catches on the game-winning drive with under two minutes to play. The drive started out disastrously, with Ben Roethlisberger taking a sack. Then he checked down to James under pressure for six yards.

On third and 13, it was James coming out of the right slot with the clutch grab between two defenders for 16 yards, up to this point arguably the most significant play of his career. Not exactly a showman, even he could not help but give a faint and timid ‘first down’ gesture after the play.

Also key in that exchange is the beating that he took after the reception, taking a lick from the front by Matt Judon ad Tony Jefferson wrestled him down from behind. It is beginning to become a theme that the tall target is holding on to balls through collisions.

That is exactly the sort of play that the Steelers need for him to deliver when he is tasked with being the starting tight end, which has been for most of the past two seasons, with brief diversions. They don’t need him to be a glorified wide receiver. They just need him to be reliable and make a few tough snags.

It’s rare at this point that James even stays in to pass protect, a distant departure from the bulk of Miller’s career, so James is routinely a target in the passing game, making it all the more important that he is able to be a meaningful contributor.

Roethlisberger took what the Ravens gave him, however, and they frequently gave him James over the middle, and the young tight end delivered time and again. He’ll never be the most impressive or athletic option out there, but the Steelers don’t need him to be. They just need what he gave that night.

About the Author

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

    Glad Ben doesn’t overthrow him anymore. He’ll be even better if he wasn’t so scared of fumbling the ball. We’ve seen him actually run before when nobody’s in front of him.

    But can we get at least a full week of Vance McDonald? His athletic ability is what takes us to the next level.

  • Mark

    Big catches across the board, still the worst blocking TE on the roster.

  • pittfan

    The 3rd and 13 was YUGE! Great to see us working the middle of the field.

  • falconsaftey43

    I too have been really hard on James. That was a fantastic game. We can live with poor blocking if he’s able to consistently deliver with those clutch catches and keep hanging onto those contested balls.

  • ThePointe

    If James could just learn to be an effective blocker, I might consider comparing him to Heath Miller. Until then, I can definitely get on board with James being considered a pretty good receiving TE for this team.

  • Sam Clonch

    Hoping for good news about Vance today (not holding my breath though).

  • Bradys_Dad

    The OUTLAW stepped up! Let’s see if he finish the season this big. Vance just can’t be relied upon from a durability standpoint but I really do love seeing the 2 of them on the field at the same time. Changes everything.

  • Truth Dispensary

    In my opinion, he’s always been better than people give him credit for. The problem with the media & many organizations is they always expect too much too quickly, never giving the younger guys enough time to become effective. There’s a better than 50% chance that he is Heath’s replacement. I like Vance, but as they say…”being available is the most important thing”.

  • capehouse

    About a month ago they started using him like the possession receiver that he is, instead of a blocker, and it’s really paid off.

  • Conserv_58

    Me watching Jessie make a play: Oh YEAH! NICE CATCH, JESSIE! Now run Jessie, run! Oh, you are running. Alright. Cool. Yo, Jessie you ran for eight yards in the time it took me to order a pizza! That’s a new record for you! Alright!

  • NinjaMountie

    I have always said I’m happy with James as far as the pass catching part of his game. He has solid hands and he can move a little when you don’t trap him on the sideline. I think you can see he’s starting to turn up field faster and make some moves, not great moves but adequate moves.
    If…IF…he could learn to block better I’d be perfectly content with him as our starting TE for the future. That’s a huge if and his blocking is why I’ve wanted to move on from him. He needs to really work on his blocking this offseason and maybe it’s a confidence thing because he’s strong enough. He just needs to be confident and get aggressive. We’ll see if he can make that next step in his game.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Did MT give an injury update on Vance?

  • Mister Wirez

    Very Heath-like performance by the Outlaw.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    He rarely drops the ball even when he gets hammered. Why is everyone so surprised about this performance? Ben just needs to find all the other weapons occasionally and they will perform. Next step is intermediate routes to Bryant, as he will be open all day long.

  • Danny Porter

    Jesse and Vance both played great. Hopefully both can play this Sunday.