While he didn’t set Sunday’s stat sheet on fire during his Week 9 NFL debut, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end Jesse James did have a solid all-around game in the team’s win over the Oakland Raiders.
During a Thursday interview on Steelers Nation Radio with Bob Labriola, offensive coordinator Todd Haley was asked to assess the performance of James, who the team drafted this tear in the fifth round out of Penn State.
“I thought he did a good job,” said Haley of James, who caught two passes for 13 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. “The guys were all excited for him. He’s a very likable, high-energy guy that’s kind of been waiting for his turn and he got the opportunity. He stepped in and was a big part of what we did, both in the run game and in the passing game and I thought it was very good start for a young player.”
James got that opportunity on Sunday thanks to veteran backup tight end Matt Spaeth missing the Raiders game because of a knee injury. He figures to get a second opportunity this coming Sunday at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns being as Spaeth has already been ruled out for that contest as his knee is still causing him problems.
While most will point to James’s touchdown catch against the Raiders as being the highlight of the game, it was the rookie’s blocking that should probably have the fan base excited instead being as that certainly was one area of his game that lacked during his college career. You can already tell that it’s been drilled into him that tight ends in Pittsburgh have to be able to block if they want to see the field on a consistent basis.
“This place looks at blocking in a big way, especially in the tight end room,” James said earlier in the week, according to steelers.com. “James Daniel puts emphasis on the fact that you can’t play here unless you are a great blocker and you finish every play. Throughout camp and the season so far I have tried to learn everything I can from these guys and put it on display and I think I did that.”
Personally, I look forward to seeing if James can display more of the same solid blocking Sunday against the Browns that he put on tape against the Raiders.