It was a long time coming for Xavier Grimble before he finally managed to make a 53-man roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016. Making the mistake of coming out of college early in 2014, the USC product spent his first two years in the league kicking around practice squads.
The Steelers signed him to their practice squad—as their second choice—prior to the start of the 2015 regular season despite the fact that he was not on their 90-man offseason roster. He remained there all season, and earned some praise from his teammates and coaches, but one wonders if he would have actually made this roster if Ladarius Green were healthy right away.
Be that as it may, Grimble has been given some opportunities to contribute this season, albeit fairly limited of late, and he has done so, both in the passing game and the running game as a blocker, though it has not come without its blemishes.
On Sunday, he saw duty for nine snaps, all of which I believe came in the first half. His first play of the game came on just the Steelers’ second offensive snap of the game, however, so it’s not as though he waited very long to get on the field.
The Steelers aligned with three tight ends on the field, but flanked one into either slot, stashing Grimble off the line next to the left tackle. The play called for a quick screen pass to Antonio Brown, with Grimble and David Johnson, in the left slot, attempting to get out in front of the play. Grimble’s assignment was a tough one, but he at least got alongside his man and congested the area on a seven-yard pickup.
Now, of course, he also capped off that opening drive with a touchdown pass, his second of the year, both of which have come on explosive plays. This would be his lone reception of the evening, but he certainly made it count.
Ben Roethlisberger made a beautiful read and throw to hit Grimble in between two depths of coverage and his tight end went up and got the ball, taking a hit from the safety and bouncing off him and into the end zone for the touchdown—their only score until the fourth quarter.
The first-year tight end also got work on the Steelers’ third drive of the game, early in the second quarter, but he didn’t have the same kind of success. In fact, he had a couple of negative plays, starting with him falling down on an intermediate route on second and nine on which he likely would have been the target, the play resulting in an eventual incompletion. In fact, both of Roethlisberger’s targets in the middle of the field fell on the play.
On the next play, Roethlisberger did go to Grimble, but the tight end seemed lost on his route over the middle. Toward the end, it looked as though he wanted to break left to the middle of the field, but the throw came to the right and was put in a position to be exposed to an interception.
Roethlisberger had a talk with Grimble on the sideline following that third-down breakdown, but he was back out there for a few snaps on the following drive. It will be interesting to see how big a role he has in Pittsburgh’s meaningless season finale. I’d like to see him get a decent amount of work.