The Pittsburgh Steelers may no longer have Heath Miller, and the Ladarius Green project has yet to work out, but there is no reason to go out and find another tight end.
The key word in that sentence is “find.” The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t need to go to the 2017 NFL Draft searching for a tight end. At that point, they’re only wasting a draft pick and focusing attention to an area they don’t need to upgrade.
Look, Jesse James wasn’t a Pro Bowler last season, but he showed a lot of promise. For a 6’7, 254-pound tight end, James wasn’t considered much of a pass catcher leaving college, and the Steelers didn’t draft him to be much of one in the NFL.
Last year, though, when Green went down and spent most of the season injured, James was the guy at tight end. Although he only caught 39 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns, he proved he could grow into the future “Heaathhhh” with some more experience.
James isn’t ready to take on all the responsibility right away. He’s only heading into his third NFL season and could still use some help to share the workload in 2017. With Green returning, and hopefully healthy, the tight end position is going to be a 50/50 split. This gives James the perfect amount of liability to develop while having a veteran to work with.
There’s no need for Pittsburgh to go out looking for a tight end in this draft. Yes, there are plenty to choose from, and the Steelers could find talent at the position as deep as the sixth-round. Still, they don’t need to be looking to pick one or keep it a priority on their draft board.
Instead, just draft one. If there is a name floating around late in the draft and they’re on the clock, scoop him up. Other than that, the Steelers do not need to waste a draft pick trying to find the future tight end in Pittsburgh.
Even if Green doesn’t work out again, Xavier Grimble proved last season that he’s a decent backup. He may not be Hall of Fame worthy just yet, but he showed potential as James’ secondary last season. During the 13 games he played in, Grimble accounted for 11 receptions, 118 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for an undrafted rookie who was supposed to be the third option coming into the season.
To put it simply, the pieces are there for Pittsburgh. Miller may be gone, and it may not be the same for a few years, but the Steelers have made the moves to regroup the tight end position.
James is the future. He’s the total package once he becomes more of a catcher, which he will. Once he becomes more comfortable in the offense, he’s going to develop into a leader on this team and a great asset at the position. The important thing is to know the Steelers need to wait it out. This isn’t an overnight fix, but will eventually turn into a great asset to this team.
Just trust James. He’s the answer Pittsburgh is looking for; he’s just not ready yet. In a year or two, he’ll be everything they had hoped for and more. With Gimble backing him up, the Steelers will have a great tight end lineup and may even be packing more heat if Ladarius Green can stay healthy.
When it comes to the draft – if there’s a player available when the Steelers are up in the later rounds, you think about taking him. But, by no means, do you start searching for another tight end. Pittsburgh just needs to ride the wave with James, Grimble and Green. Eventually, it’s going to work out.