2018 seems to be Jesse James’ year. For all the times the Pittsburgh Steelers have tried to replace him, first with Ladarius Green, then with Vance McDonald, not to mention all the interest they’ve shown in the position during the draft, he keeps shining through as the most reliable option.
James is coming off a career game, burning the Kansas City Chiefs for 138 yards. That’s more than Heath Miller ever had and the most yards by a Steelers’ tight end in nearly 30 years. Pittsburgh failed to offer James a contract extension before the season began, as they did to Vince Williams and Chris Boswell, but given his early season performance, may be regretting that.
As tweeted out by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, James knows he’s been the overlooked face in the room. But he hasn’t let it bother him too much.
“I’m used to it. This is my fourth year and it has happened a few times…I’m a little big of an underdog. Gotta earn what’s yours and try to stay on the field at a high level.”
It’s unclear what will happen to his snap count moving forward. McDonald and James basically split snaps in the former’s first game back so in theory, McDonald will slide into that #1 role moving forward. But James’ performance, he has more receiving yards than Antonio Brown, might have the team thinking hard about that.
James told Fowler he’s using the extension “snub” as added motivation while keeping his eyes on team goals.
“I would have loved to have a contract done and set in stone. But it is what it is. Just gives me another year to prove myself, see what happens after the season. I’m focused on winning a Super Bowl.”
While he didn’t receive a new contract, James has sure seemed to earn respect from Steelers Nation. Read the Twitter responses to Folwer’s tweet below and you’ll see support for him that simply didn’t exist even a year ago. There’s some recency bias in play, but many – myself included – are recognizing his true value as a reliable, consistent asset to this offense.
TE Jesse James, second on the Steelers with 198 receiving yards and a 2019 free agent, discusses the team not signing him this summer and trying to replace him since 2016. pic.twitter.com/7dMAE3jKXR
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 22, 2018