Jesse James was a significant part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense and locker room over the majority of his four seasons with the team since they drafted him in the fifth round in 2015. When he first came in, he was working alongside sage veterans like Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, but it was a complete different crew after that.
One face that was there all along, however, was All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was already in the process of doing amazing things on the field by the time he arrived in 2015. So he had a first-hand look at much of what transpired between the wide receiver and the organization, and with his teammates.
While James took a back seat to Vance McDonald over the past two years, however, the Detroit Lions this offseason decided that they envision more from the 24-year-old, who signed him to a three-year contract worth in excess of $18 million.
The area native and Penn State alumnus talked about how it was a dream to play for the Steelers and that he got to live that dream for four years, his only regret being that he wasn’t able to help bring another Super Bowl to the city.
But there were parts that he was glad to leave behind—and parts that he was glad to see Pittsburgh leave behind, after referring to the team that he grew up loving as the Kardashians early in the offseason. During his introductory press conference in Detroit, he was asked about what surprised him about the Steelers’ trading of Brown.
“Nothing, really. It had to happen”, he said. “It was time for him to move on from Pittsburgh, and time for Pittsburgh to move on from him. I think things blew out of control pretty fast there. Didn’t expect it to go the way that it did as fast as it did, but I’m happy the Steelers and him are at peace and willing to move on. And really happy that’s over with”.
While some have tried to isolate specific comments that James made during the press conference to make it seem as though he was rushing out the door, ready to leave Pittsburgh forever, a more thorough evaluation of his remarks suggest otherwise.
It also seems clear that he remains a fan of the team and wants to see the Steelers not just have success but to remain the strong organization that they have been known to be, and the quote above seems to indicate that he felt moving on from Brown was a necessary part of reclaiming that identity.
As many other Steelers fans agreed.