The tight end group has sorta gotten lost in the offensive shuffle this year. Quarterbacks get all the glory. The receivers are flashy. And the offensive line is a feel good story. Sure, Ladarius Green has produced some big-time plays but beyond that, there isn’t a ton of press turned towards Jesse James, David Johnson, and Xavier Grimble.
And it sounds like they’re just fine with that.
Speaking with reporters yesterday afternoon, Todd Haley had some high praise for that group.
“They’re one of the most unselfish groups I’ve ever been apart of consistently,” he told reporters. “And I credit [tight end coach James Daniel] for creating that atmosphere.”
Each player has had their chance in the spotlight throughout the season, each moment away from the microscope. Green spent more than half the season working his way back from injury and then a couple more to get fully acclimated into the lineup. James wore that starting hat until that point, gave it up, and then will take it back for Sunday’s regular season finale.
Johnson does the dirty work as a valuable blocker while Grimble has bounced on an off the Sunday roster, racking up two big-time touchdowns on just 11 receptions.
They’re all lead by, as Haley point out, James Daniel, one of the longest tenured coaches on the team. If he returns for next season, he’s an easy one to spot, sporting a straw hat almost every day at St. Vincent College. And he’s done a great job of juggling a rotating roster and getting production out of young guys like James and Grimble.
Haley was particularly complimentary of James and noted the strides he’s made during the year.
“He’s continued to improve. Day to day, week to week, month to month, and I think it’s shown up. That fourth quarter last week, his play was a play, whether we want him to or not, sparked everybody and everybody realized, we gotta get this thing in the end zone. Run game, he’s improved. Week to week in the pass game, I think he’s been a pretty consistent performer.”
Ben Roethlisberger also recently pointed James’ improvement as a run blocker and it was evident in last week’s win. His blocking from the beginning of the year to now is practically night and day and it’ll be fun to go back and compare/contrast during the offseason.
As a receiver, James has hauled in 37 passes for 322 yards and three scores. He’ll look to add to those totals while logging a heavy amount of snaps in the final since Green has been officially ruled out.