The Pittsburgh Steelers have for some time now been developing among the best offenses in the league, which came closest to reaching its culmination just last season—that is, at least, when Ben Roethlisberger was healthy. This year’s roster is also loaded with offensive talent—perhaps, though, with one notable exception.
Without the presence of free agent acquisition Ladarius Green, the credentials of the Steelers’ current tight end group is pretty barren. Among those are a second-year player in Jesse James, who will serve as the starter for at least the first six games, Xavier Grimble, a first-year player whose roster spot is perhaps in jeopardy, and a veteran re-tread in David Johnson, who is not much of a receiving threat, nor a conventional in-line blocker.
None of that phases Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, as he moves on to a season in which the team parted with both Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, longtime presences over the majority of the past decade.
“I’m not concerned about the tight end position and their ability to contribute”, Tomlin said yesterday during his first regular-season pre-game press conference of the year, when asked about the current state of what is, on paper, a fairly underwhelming list of names.
“These guys don’t have long resumes, but they’ve worked extremely hard, they’ve participated for us in big ways in the past. I think about particularly Jesse James starting. He had a start for us at home a year ago here at Heinz Field and he probably caught four or five balls on the first drive of the game”.
In spite of the fact that he did not even dress for the first half of his rookie season, James got the helmet due to injury in the ninth game and caught a touchdown pass, finding himself on the active list for the remainder of the year.
He started in place of Miller against the Colts and logged a considerable amount of time, in addition to catching three passes for 30 yards. He also had a 22-yard reception during the Steelers’ playoff victory over the Bengals.
Grimble, meanwhile, has shown inconsistent hands in spite of his potential. Johnson is a sort of a shorter Spaeth-type of player, who moves more and is less in-line. But Tomlin believes the Steelers can utilize the talents of any one of them because of what the collective, and Roethlisberger, brings to the table.
“I think largely, when you have the type of weapons we have on offense, you’re capable of simply taking what the defense gives to you”, he told reporters yesterday. “I know Ben Roethlisberger is of that mentality and if they want to give us opportunities at that position because of the known strength we have outside, we’re comfortable taking them”.
The 10th-year head coach acknowledges that the position is a point of discussion because of the turnover and inexperience of those currently rostered, but, he said, “we’re comfortable with where we are and with what they’re capable of contributing to us”.