When it comes to the tight end position, the Pittsburgh Steelers were at a major disadvantage on Sunday with respect to being able to have all hands on deck. Obviously, their newest tight end, Vance McDonald, missed the game entirely while recovering from a back injury, to get the ball rolling.
But their starter, Jesse James, literally suffered an injury on the first play of the game—after the kickoff—getting rolled up on from behind and suffering an ankle injury. In spite of that, I think he ended up playing something like all but three snaps, but it was clear that he was limited.
In other words, the third-year pro was asked to soldier through, and he did, which in and of itself is commendable. I’m also assuming that that is what Alejandro Villanueva—a literal soldier, naturally—was asked to do at the end of the game when Marcus Gilbert suffered an injury.
The good news is that neither of them were even on the injury report at the end of the week, so both of them are expected to play tomorrow in Chicago against the Bears. Xavier Grimble, who logged about a dozen and a half snaps or so in the last game, will also be available.
I am frankly curious and eager to see what this tight end group is capable of doing at full capacity, and I don’t think that we have been given the opportunity to see them at their full capacity yet, with Sunday hopefully representing the nearest approximation.
While we are generally familiar by now with James’ body of work even if he is still an ascending player, we really have seen very little of McDonald, and what we did see was a guy who is undergoing a pretty significant change in life circumstances after he was traded to the Steelers late in the preseason.
In about 20 or so snaps in the season opener, the former second-round pick managed to record an offensive holding penalty and failed to hold on to a pass on third down that many really want to label a drop, but which I have declined to do because he was hit by a defender immediately after attempting to make the initial catch.
I would like to hope that he is going to be in a bit more stable of a place mentally when he takes the field tomorrow, and I am looking forward to seeing him get a couple of targets, especially since it will help clear the taste out of everybody’s mouths over his one target to date in a Steelers uniform.
According to Jim Wexell, with Chris Hubbard expected to be in the starting lineup this week, we might even see a new body at tight end: B.J. Finney. This would certainly be interesting, since he had not done if before, and I don’t consider him particularly mobile. I will be on the lookout for this without a doubt.