There has been so much to process over the course of the past day and a half or so for everybody that considers themselves a part of Steeler Nation. And yes, even though I thought that Jesse James’ catch was not a catch by the letter of the law, I am still as much a fan as everybody else.
And that is the point of what I’m about to write. In the aftermath of the loss, I simply feel terrible for James. I’m sure there are more than a few commenters here who actually think that I dislike him based on a number of articles that I have written about the third-year tight end over the course of the past two seasons, but that is by no means the case.
Let’s get this out of the way first, though. That catch at the end of the game on Sunday night was probably the greatest that the young man has ever felt on a football field in his entire life, and for good reason. It should have been the highlight of his career up to this point.
And he had it taken away from him from a combination of three factors: 1) a wildly controversial rule; 2) an aggressive executive call on replay review; and 3) the player’s valiant effort to make a play for his team.
The confluence of these three combined, not necessarily in order, produced the whiplash of emotion, from jubilation to heartache, that nobody experienced more directly than the Penn State product, who was granted the incredible opportunity to not only play for but start on his local professional team.
I like James as a person. I like James as a player. I may not be fully convinced that he has what it takes to be the sort of difference-maker that I would define as a ‘franchise’ tight end, but he is durable, he does have some ability to block, even if it needs improvement, and especially lately, he has been coming up in the passing game.
He is not the type of person to display his emotions very often. I recall after an ugly rookie preseason debut, it was subsequently revealed that he had just experienced the death of a close friend. He gave no indication of that.
Rarely do we see him do much at all. He has his arms raised celebration when he scores, almost as a matter of course. But the week before, after he came up with a big third-down conversion on the game-winning drive, even he couldn’t help himself but to faintly signal a first down.
Almost as though he felt guilty for the act, he sheepishly turned back to the huddle. But after he seemingly scored the go-ahead touchdown the night before, he let out a battle cry. And I thought it was great to see. On a human level, it was awful to see it taken away and replaced with a helpless stare up to the stars as his triumph was negated.
But he will get up, and get over it, and get back to work. He’s tough, and he will move on.