Tomlin Praises Work Of Jesse James And Vance McDonald

As good as Antonio Brown was tonight, and he was as good as ever, he couldn’t have done it alone. Stepping up without JuJu Smith-Schuster were the Pittsburgh Steelers tight ends. Combined, Vance McDonald and Jesse James caught 14 passes for 149 yards. For James it was a career high, NFL or college. And it was McDonald’s best performance as a Steeler.

After the game, Mike Tomlin praised the work of both of them.

“They were minimizing some stuff on the outside,” Tomlin told the media per the team site. “They were capable of doing that. They were playing without Jimmy Smith. The middle of the field, there was some opportunities there. And guys like Vance and Jesse, made a lot of plays for us.”

Their performance was especially vital without Smith-Schuster. Not having him is a big loss in the slot and subsequently, the middle of the field. Eli Rogers made a couple key catches on third down while James and McDonald continued to be effective throughout.

McDonald made the splash plays, catching two passes for 19 and 18 yards.The latter came at the end of the first half, a time of the game where the Steelers continue to have success, to set up a Chris Boswell field goal before the break. He would’ve had more if not for a shoulder injury that booted him from the game

James was the second most targeted Steeler on the night, hauling in ten of 12. Ben Roethlisberger found him early and often. He had two receptions on Pittsburgh’s first drive and then came up clutch late in the game, making a difficult 3rd and 13 snag in traffic on the game-winning drive.

Rogers had two third down conversions, bouncing back from a string of tough games.

While it’s unreasonable to expect the group to be this good again, especially with Smith-Schuster’s return next week, it was a performance sorely needed. The offense hums the best note when everyone is involved and making plays. Where defenses become more reluctant to double Antonio Brown and when they do, they wind up paying the price. That’s what James and McDonald were able to accomplish tonight.

I’m sure we’ll do a full breakdown on James later in the week. You won’t want to miss that.

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • falconsaftey43

    What a fantastic game by James.

  • steelburg

    Every time I think McDonald is about to have a big game the guy gets hurt. Man he can defiantly play in our system and I could even live with the drops. But he can’t stay healthy. On the flip side James played well catching the football. He isn’t much of a YAC guy if he was he would have had an even bigger game. But he played really good.

  • John Pennington

    Both tightends played well first time in a long time to bad Vance cant stay healthy enough to play a whole game.

  • Kevin artis

    Mcdonald availability is suspect. If he can stay on the field he would be good enough to question if we draft a safety.
    James is not going to get you any yards but I’m glad he’s catching the ball in traffic.

  • EdJHJr

    If James learns to block….i always liked him

  • ryan72384

    Im a huge Jessie fan. Have been since the day he was drafted. I know he is absolutely 100 percent useless as a blocker but as a reciever he is clutch and I feel like he is going to catch anything in his radius. His 3rd down catch was Heath-esque. When he is able to catch the ball on the run he is more effective. And Vance would be a stud in this offense if he ever played a full game. He and Jessie together make a good 1-2 punch at TE especially if they ever play a full game with JuJu.

  • Mutatedgenome

    Did McDonald get hurt again? I didn’t see him in the game late in the second half.

  • Quan Hurst

    They should check in on green see what his health is like he’d be a great addition this late

  • treeher

    Alex, sounds like we’ve finally converted you! Will be interested to see details on McDonald’s injury. He came to us with a glass man reputation and nothing has changed.

  • Rocksolid20

    Or the next game or the next game . He plays
    one , takes three off .

  • Rocksolid20

    Ya , maybe Green and McDonald can alternate games .

  • steelburg

    I’m assuming you mean a tight end instead of a safety. But I would agree. They will mostly likely opt out of the contract with him next year. But I wouldn’t be against them bring him back on a cheaper 1 year deal to see if he can stay healthy play well.

  • NinjaMountie

    I’ve said it over and over. If Jesse could block better I’d be perfectly comfortable with him as our starting TE long term.

  • thomas hmmmm

    His running after the catch has been improving.. Problem is Ben usually throws to him when he has a bunch of guys around him.

  • CountryClub

    yes. Shoulder.

  • Steelerman24752

    Anyone know about how many drops we had? I don’t remember very many if any. Both Rogers and MacDonald mad clutch catches.

  • pittfan

    dude came up big, none bigger than the 3rd down under 2 minutes

  • blackandgoldBullion

    When was the last time you saw Jesse James on a roll? Never. You see they rarely use him as a consistent target even when the opponents are covering everything deep and leaving the short stuff available. Yesterday was a perfect example of what he can accomplish if you get him going, targeting him more often.