After released Ladarius Green, the Pittsburgh Steelers handed the tight end position to Jesse James and Xavier Grimble.
Now, these two young tight end are looking to start their own legacy in Pittsburgh. With Jesse James leading the way as the starter, Grimble will play a second-team role. But with his pass catching ability, he could emerge as one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets in 2017.
Some experts believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers should play more of a spread offense in 2017; using three of four receivers in each set, and relying on one tight end at a time. While their receiving core is one of the best in the NFL, mixing up sets and allowing their young tight ends to get action is significant in their development.
11 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns is not an impressive first season in the NFL. For someone who was considered a practice squad player coming into the season, though, Grimble proved he can play in this league. Now, that Pittsburgh has handed their two young ends the job this season, Grimble is looking to explode as the pass-catching tight end.
The USC product was very undervalued coming out of college. The three-year starter put up 731 yards and 11 touchdowns during his time with the Trojans but ended up undrafted during the 2016 NFL Draft.
After getting a shot with Pittsburgh, he was out to prove he’s worth a roster spot at the next level. And as the story goes; he’s done enough to earn the respect of the team and be handed a shot to contribute at a larger role in 2017.
Grimble will be the tight end behind James but will play both end and slot receiver. When the Steelers spread the field, expect to find him in one of the inside slots, working the middle of the field as a short-target option.
The expectations for Grimble this season should be an increase in productivity from last season through a larger role in the offense. He’ll be used much more in the passing game as someone who can cover the middle of the field and run short routes. James will still be the primary redzone target, but during the other 80 yards of a drive, Grimble will see his fair share of looks.
He’ll be somewhere near a 500-yard receiver. Depending on how many times he can break open for a big play, he could expect anywhere from 5-8 touchdowns. With his reliable hands and athleticism, he’s a prime candidate for multiple short catches that turn into 20-plus yard plays.
Grimble will become one of his quarterback’s favorite weapons this season. While defenses are figuring out how to stop this receiving core, Grimble will find holes and take advantage of the lack of attention he’ll receive.
He’s not going to surpass James as the starting tight end, but he will become just as valuable to this offense as any other tight end Pittsburgh puts on the field.