The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Jesse James
Position: Tight End
Experience: 3 Years
For the purposes of this exit meeting series, I am beginning with the players who were the primary starters at their position for the bulk of the year, so while I believe that Vance McDonald is going to be the primary tight end in 2018, I will be talking first about Jesse James, who in his third season functioned most frequently as the starting tight end.
That was largely because McDonald was only acquired a couple of weeks before the regular season began, and the latter even acknowledged that he was still learning the offense and building a rapport with Ben Roethlisberger through the playoff bye week. His not infrequent injuries also played a major role in James’ playing time.
The third-year tight end has, in truth, but thrust into a role above his pay grade for the bulk of the past two seasons. He had a short apprenticeship under Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth in 2015 before injury-riddled replacement starters in Ladarius Green and then McDonald forced him into heavy action.
What he turned in was nothing spectacular, of course, but it was solid, often enough, and specifically he had a couple of crucial games, including his two touchdowns in the season opener and a 10-catch, 97-yard game against the Ravens late in the year.
Believe it or not, but one area in which I saw improvement from him this season is (and I hesitate to even use the word, but) elusiveness. He is about as graceless as a man under 250 pounds can be, but he actually made a few defenders miss this year, and, in an effort of full disclosure, those instances gave me a chuckle.
Truly, James’ greatest asset to date has been his durability. He has not missed a game and has played through injuries, which is the polar opposite of McDonald, and is a pretty key point, for those keeping score at home.
As I have been arguing for about a season and a half now, he is a serviceable tight end who is miscast in a starting role, but who could make a very solid complementary option, and perhaps he will finally be able to serve in that role in 2018, even while he wants to be the starter.