The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Where is the ceiling for tight end Jesse James?
The Steelers know that they have quite a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the tight end position, although I would imagine that they are also not sure if they already have the answers in-house or if they will be needing to make some additions through free agency and the draft.
Of course, the team was hoping for an easy solution during March of last year when they quickly inked free agent Ladarius Green to a four-year contract, but his first season with the Steelers did not quite go as either party had envisioned, to say the least, and he drew more ire than cheers from large portions of the fan base—fair or not.
While he did catch 18 passes for some 300 yards and a touchdown, he was limited to action in just six games, missing the first half of the season while continuing to recover from offseason ankle surgery, and then he missed the final five games of the year, including the team’s three postseason games, due to a concussion. Given his history, concern about his future is not entirely unjustified, although it has been overblown.
With Green in and out of the lineup, second-year tight end Jesse James saw the bulk of the playing time at the tight end position during the 2016 season, and while he did not exactly get off to the best start of the season—in spite of the fact that he caught a few touchdowns early on—he showed encouraging improvement in the latter stages of the year.
But projecting upside for a player such as James is a difficult task, because it is hard to discern where his ceiling really is. Is he a high-quality number two tight end, the kind of player that makes you run a lot of 12 personnel? Can he actually be a good starter? I know he has his fan club here and many of them no doubt already believe he is a good starter. But I’m not there yet, and despite the fact that I like him, I don’t know that I will ever be, unless he proves it.