Former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James pretty famously made a comment toward the end of the 2018 season in which he compared the team, or at least the locker room, to the Kardashians because of all of the public headlines that certain players were drawing.
James, an area native and alumnus of Penn State, wanted to play for the Steelers and got to do that for four years, but was ready to move on due to the suitors he found in free agency, signing a three-year contract in excess of $18 million with the Detroit Lions.
I wasn’t necessarily interested in what he had to say until I started seeing fragments of sound bites doing the rounds from his introductory press conference earlier today. I figured you will have seen them as well, so I wanted to put them into context.
In particular was a remark about him being “glad to get away” from the Steelers’ drama. It’s worth pointing out that he was directly asked if he was glad to get away from it. And his full answer was far more nuanced.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) March 14, 2019
“I’m glad to get away from it. Obviously things like that I like to face head-on. If I would’ve had to opportunity to head back to Pittsburgh I would’ve been into it and ready to get through this”, he said. “You know, they’re in a different situation [now]. They’ve lost a couple of players that’ve been keys for a long time for them. It’s not something I was running away from. Those problems, I would like to face them head-on”.
In other words, he would have had no problem going back into the locker room, especially with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell gone, had he had the same financial and schematic opportunities in Pittsburgh as he finds in Detroit.
“I’ve had some success in Pittsburgh. I feel like things could’ve been better. Offensively, I wasn’t used the way I feel like I could be used here”, he said. “I feel like my ceiling here is gonna be much higher than it was in the past”.
“In Pittsburgh, I was a key part, but here I feel like my role could be greater. I think I’ll be able to do more things and my game’s grown every year”, he added, pointing out that he wasn’t used frequently in the red zone or on third down, favoring Vance McDonald in those situations.
James is still 24 despite the fact that he has played four full NFL seasons. He has plenty of room to grow, at least in theory, and in Detroit, perhaps he will develop into the legitimate full-time, every-down starter he believes he’s capable of being. One thing he’s right about is that he’s gotten better every year.
“It’s a hard place to leave. I grew up in Pittsburgh”, he said of signing away from the Steelers. “My dream was to be a Steeler. I got to do that for four years. I didn’t get the job done, never got to bring a Super Bowl to Pittsburgh, but my time there was a success. I’ve gotten a lot better, grew as a football player, and I got to live the dream for four years”.