Steelers Plan To Develop TE Jesse James As Pass Catcher

There was a rumor on early Friday going around that the Pittsburgh Steelers were among the teams that were inquiring about trading up all the way to the 33rd overall spot with the Tennessee Titans, who owned that first slot in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

It was ESPN who floated out the idea that their potential target was tight end Maxx Williams, who was the near-consensus top player at his position. The Steelers failed to trade up even one spot, however, and if they really wanted him, that is exactly how many spots it would have taken.

As the second round clicked away, the Baltimore Ravens tired of waiting, and they dished out some of their draft compensation for the Haloti Ngata trade to skip ahead three spots to the 23rd selection in the second round to get their tight end, who was the highest-rated player on their board remaining.

After that happened, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stated on Twitter that the Steelers were ready to draft Williams with the next pick had the Ravens not done so. The following day, general manager Kevin Colbert denied that that was the case.

Even if it were the case, however, and Colbert was just throwing up a smokescreen, there was some genuine excitement from the Steelers’ part about being able to draft tight end Jesse James in the fifth round, 105 spots after the Ravens drafted Williams.

At 6’7”, 267 lbs., James is a more immediately NFL-friendly blocker, despite the fact that both prospects came out early. Some draft analysts fail to understand why James came out, believing that he could be a high-round pick if he played his senior season.

The Steelers, for one, do not believe that Penn State used him correctly, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and that is reflected in the comments made by tight ends coach James Daniel after the pick, specifically regarding his potential as a pass catcher.

“You see him catching balls and he made a couple of tough catches. It’s a lot like what you do with other guys, you see them and when a guy hasn’t been put in the situation it’s hard to say that he is definitely going to be this or definitely going to be that. But you don’t see anything that says he’s not going to be a receiver.”

After the draft, Colbert talked about the draft class as a whole, saying that James was one of the few tight ends in this class that he viewed a as a “Y”, or an in-line blocking tight end who could compete with defensive ends.

He also went out of his way to point out that James came out as a junior, and that “he’s probably not where he needs to be”, or where he would be after another year of development. But I believe that getting him in the building now to learn under Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth will more than make up for the early exit.

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