I posed the question recently about whether or not it was conceivable that over the course of the 2017 season, second-year Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble could ultimately end up becoming a bigger contributor to the offense than Jesse James, who is the presumptive starter after the team released Ladarius Green with a failed physical designation.
The third-year Penn State product happened to make an interesting, but thoroughly unsurprising, statement recently that is relevant to that discussion, who while I talked about James earlier today, I wanted to circle back and hone in on what he had to say about Grimble and Green.
“I feel he and I are pretty similar in terms of how Ladarius would be used”, James told Chris Adamski for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He does a really good job running the deeper routes and making big plays down the field”.
In other words, he in so many words confirmed my own observations that I have been echoing since the middle of the 2016 season. As the year progressed, Grimble’s role increased, and they began using him more frequently, and in situations that they would later utilize Green.
Most notably, in the two games prior to Green being promoted from the Physically Unable to Perform List, the Steelers made heavy, near-exclusive use of Grimble over James in no-huddle and hurry-up situations, particularly at the end of either half.
Grimble didn’t get nearly the amount of targets that Green did in his six games, however. The latter only ran something like 100 routes, or a bit more than that, yet he was targeted 34 times. Ben Roethlisberger looked his way with great frequency. That wasn’t the case for the first-year tight end.
Time will tell to see if that changes. James talked about using himself and Grimble together the way he and Green were used during the latter’s six games on the 53-man roster.
“Hopefully we see that a little more this year”, he said. Grimble “can do it all. He’s gonna be a good player for us. We have a good group of tight ends”.
When the Steeler signed Green, they were not just signing on to a specific player, but also to a type of player. They demonstrated their interest in a more mobile, athletic tight end who can present a more dynamic target in the passing game.
He still has a lot of work to do, but Grimble is hoping to become that sort of player, and based on the circumstances in which they used him a year ago, the Steelers are hoping the same.