Steelers Player Preview: Jesse James
All around, the Steelers have gotten high grades for their recent haul from the NFL Draft, but how do high grades in May translate to production in September?
I’ve already looked at the roles that Bud Dupree, Senquez Golson, Sammie Coates, and Doran Grant. Now, let’s take a look at the Steelers’ fifth round pick, Jesse James.
Since 2005, the Steelers have had their man at tight end. Heath Miller has proven to be a great pick for Pittsburgh. Constantly in the right place at the right time, and rarely beat outright when blocking, Miller is the epitome of what the Steelers are looking for at the position.
James is like Miller in many ways, and also unlike him. The Penn State product needs some development. He doesn’t have the receiving skills of many of the big name tight ends coming out of college lately, but he doesn’t have the blocking skills of Heath Miller either.
He is a physical specimen at 6’7” and over 260 pounds. He also has some speed for his size, running a 4.66 in the 40 yard dash at his pro day. Neither an elite receiver nor blocker in college, James smells like a project.
He has the tools to develop into an offensive weapon. This will all depend largely on his ability to improve while competing at the NFL level.
As far as his 2015 role with the Steelers, it’s unlikely that James gets more than spot work behind Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth or special teams snaps. Miller and Spaeth are top tier blockers when it comes to the tight end position. Miller is also a reliable and receiver and red zone threat. James will sit and watch–and hopefully learn.
The Steelers have had several tight end projects over the years that haven’t worked out–so much so that they brought Matt Spaeth back into the fold after he’d previously left the team via free agency. We have to hope that the Jesse James project goes a bit differently.
James has the advantage of coming on later in the careers of Spaeth and Miller. The veteran talents might not be around much longer, and the Steelers will have to look elsewhere for their answer at tight end. If he can stick around and develop, James could inherit the role
While at Penn State, James showed the ability to make difficult catches and get into the end zone. He also understood blocking principles well. If these skills can transition to the NFL and he can be more consistent than he was in college, the Steelers will have a new toy on offense. James will have two good mentors ahead of him as well as an all time great quarterback. He better start learning.
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