With the 2017 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certain players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.
Player: TE Jesse James
Stock Value: Up
The very fact that the Steelers managed to go through free agency and the draft without adding a tight end means that the stock value for third-year player Jesse James is up. That doesn’t mean that he is going to play as many snaps as he did last season, when starter Ladarius Green missed all but six games and was never fully integrated into the offense.
But the former fifth-round pick did finish the season on a positive note, and was able to throw a couple of notable blocks in the postseason that got some attention. Over the course of three postseason games, he caught 11 passes for 137 yards, which was more than double the number of yards per game that he averaged in the regular season.
In 16 games, 13 of which he started, the Penn State product did catch 39 passes for 338 yards, but as should be noted, his yards per reception was a truly dismal 8.7 yards, which showed a very significant deficiency in terms of being able to pick up yards after the catch.
A little over a month ago, James spoke to the Steelers’ website and talked about how he dropped weight and how that helped him sustain his endurance over the course of the long season, believing that it allowed him to feel healthier and play faster.
He did show last season that, if necessary, the offense could function while utilizing him as their top tight end, even if it is not an ideal situation, and they certainly will be hoping that Green is able to assume a much larger role in his second season with the team.
But James is quite a young man with plenty of further room for development. He does have a lot of work to do both in terms of his blocking and receiving abilities, and with what he does with the football in his hands, but he has made progress.
And I don’t think there’s any compelling reason to believe that he can’t at least make modest improvements in comparison to last season. If he can do better with fighting through contact after the catch and picking up an extra couple yards per reception, that would make a big difference. And considering that they didn’t address the position, he should certainly get his opportunities.