The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have their ideal circumstances surrounding the tight end position right now, but it could certainly be a lot worse than it has shown itself to be, whether we are talking about blocking or receiving. Ladarius Green will certainly be an asset once he gets here, but one thing cannot be denied, and that is that through the first four weeks, the tight end position has produced in the end zone.
The Steelers have thrown 15 touchdown passes over the course of the first five games, and four of those passes have gone to the tight ends. Second-year tight end, and current starter, Jesse James added his third touchdown of the season on Sunday against the Jets, and first-year tight end Xavier Grimble added one of his own during the second game of the season.
James is certainly not pumping out the yardage—in fact, he is averaging a pretty pitiful 7.1 yards per reception—but he has a touchdown in each of the las three games in which the team has actually scored a touchdown.
His six receptions for 43 yards on Sunday represented career highs in both categories. He previously caught five passes for 31 yards in the season opener, but was limited to two or three receptions for under 30 yards—in two cases under 20 yards—in the three games in between.
But what he has done this year as a receiver that has been very impressive, and certainly commendable, is that he has done an excellent job of holding on to the football after contact. He has made some tough catches over the course of the first five games that were made tough due to the fact that he simply had to try to maintain control of the ball after taking a big hit.
And Grimble has been contributing as well. He has five receptions thus far on the season for 58 yards, including two receptions for 13 yards—one of them for 11 yards—against the Jets. He made a very impressive catch and dove for the score from five yards out to complete a 20-yard play against the Bengals in the second week of the season.
Even David Johnson has had a couple of receptions, including a 24-yard catch and run effort last week against the Chiefs. Johnson has been the team’s best and most consistent blocker, but all three have had their moments in that regard, though James’ sheer snap count is probably doing him no favors.
Green reportedly looked pretty decent warming up for the game on Sunday, but he is still at least one more game away from even being able to return. When he does get on the field, at least after he gets himself up and running, he will add a new dynamic to this offense. But in the meantime, those who have been filling the void have been solid in their contributions, and excellent in the end zone.