As the third tight end on a team that has two very good wide receivers, two tight ends ahead of him who can catch the football, and a good pass-catching running back, it doesn’t even need to be said that third-year Xavier Grimble does not get a ton of opportunities to contribute in the receiving game for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Coming into yesterday’s game against the Denver Broncos, he had just five targets through the first 10 games of the season, active for all of them, catching four passes for 47 yards, including a career-long 22-yard pass back in Week Six against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The former undrafted free agent got another one of his rare chances yesterday from the Broncos’ 24-yard line on third and short when the Steelers ran a play-action pass in his direction, crossing over the middle of the field.
He had an unimpeded path toward the goal line, but there he met safety Will Parks. The collision at the one-yard line resulted in Grimble losing possession of the football just before he crossed the goal line, and it spilled out of the end zone, which by rule results in a change of possession—in other words, a turnover—and a touchback for the opposing team.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) November 25, 2018
He was inches away from scoring his first touchdown of the season, and the fourth of his career. Instead, he lost the ball for his team. He said after the game that the safety “didn’t surprise me at all. I saw him coming. I could’ve cut back and scored but I wanted to run right through him. I was probably too aggressive. That’s what happened. Unfortunately”.
Grimble is one of the most physical players on the team, which is why he still often gets called upon to serve in the team’s 22 personnel package when they turn to a tackle-eligible over both Vance McDonald and Jesse James.
In other words, it’s no surprise to hear him say that he wanted to run over a player rather than run past him. And to be fair, nine times out of 10 or better, that play doesn’t result in a loss of possession.
When a player gets as few opportunities to contribute as he does, it’s important to maximize them. That is what he was trying to do by forcing a collision at the goal line, but instead he achieved the direct opposite effect.
Said Head Coach Mike Tomlin after the game, “I don’t take any credit away from guys that are competing and plays that people make, but I coach Xavier and I’m focused on the ball security element of it”.
I’m sure he will learn his lesson for the next time, but when that next time will come is anyone’s guess. In 39 career games, he has 21 catches for 220 yards and three touchdowns.