Pittsburgh Steelers third-year tight end Jesse James has not been a big statistics guy, and frankly, he never is going to be. Through the halfway point of the year, for example, he has 20 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came all the way back in the first game of the season.
That only puts him on pace to have 40 catches for under 400 receiving yards and four touchdowns, not exactly world-beating numbers at the tight end position in today’s NFL. And yet it would be slightly better than what he put up last season, with a stat line of 39 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
Thanks primarily to his big 32-yard catch-and-run on Sunday on a pass delivered in a tight window that was able to get him in space, James has at least been able to approach a reasonable 10 yards per reception. Without that, his average his closer to 8.5 yards.
But he isn’t overly worried about his numbers, or his role; at least that is what he told Jacob Klinger this week following their victory over the Lions.
“As long as we’re productive on offense, catching balls or not, as long as we’re being productive it doesn’t matter to me”, he told the reporter, though he was also referring to the tight end position as a whole in an offense that is heavily showcasing its wide receivers and, of course, its All-Pro running back.
“Whatever they’re asking us to do we’ve done a good job, we’ve been productive”, he argued. “We’ve had a couple bumps in the road, but whatever the team’s asking us to do that week we’ve been productive, so whatever it takes to get a win”.
I’m not sure quite frankly that I would agree with his assessment that the tight end position as a whole has been productive—certainly not consistently—but nevertheless, I digress. “That’s all the tight end unit — that’s all we care about”, he continued. “We’re selfless for the team”.
The elephant in the room—the medical room—is Vance McDonald, the tight end that the Steelers acquired via trade in August. He had been in recent weeks quickly ascending the depth chart until a knee injury set things back, causing him to sit out on Sunday.
As a result, we are now halfway through the year and the tight end position is really not really solidified. Is James the guy? Is McDonald the guy? Do they not have ‘the guy’, but rather just a bunch of guys? Surely they will try to sort this out during the break, but it will ultimately have to be answered on the field.