Steelers expect “great deal of improvement” from tight ends

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Before the 2016 season, the Steelers signed Ladarius Green as a free agent in hopes of keeping the tight end position as a key one in the wake of Heath Miller’s retirement.

Green missed a lot of time after offseason ankle surgery, however, and ended the year in the concussion protocol, leaving the Steelers without much to show for their rare dip into the veteran free agent pool. They released Green this offseason and are moving on with Jesse James and Xavier Grimble in line for significant playing time.

James, a 2015 fifth-round pick, has 47 catches through two seasons and Grimble, who was undrafted out of USC in 2015, had 11 catches in his first regular season action last year. James said the duo is “ready to step up and make the plays we’re asked to make” and offensive coordinator Todd Haley shares that expectation.

“Jesse will be a year better with lot of playing time last year. Xavier, same thing,” Haley said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s a guy who wasn’t even sure he was going to make the team going into last year, made it and then contributed for us. They are young guys. Until you see them through that full third year, I think it should be expected there will be a great deal of improvement.”

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took issue with a report that he wanted the team to add a tight end this offseason. If James and Grimble fulfill Haley’s expectations, there probably won’t be a need to do the same in 2018.

10 responses to “Steelers expect “great deal of improvement” from tight ends

  1. Meh. James is big and not very fast, average hands. Grimble is a “looks the part” kind of guy, sort of like Jared Cook. Athletic and fast, but has yet to produce much. They better hope the WRs make up for mediocre TE play

  2. .
    It’s always been a paradox as to why the Steelers undervalue the TE position. While it’s true that their WR are excellent, having a Gronkowski style weapon who can get open down the seam causes chaos in the secondary.

    Some teams, like the Patriots, put a premium on the TE position and collect them as if there was a worldwide shortage. Other teams, like the Steelers, seem to view them as auxiliary tackles and the fourth option in the passing game.

  3. I love how all the AFCN teams think their team jumped in front of the Steelers. If your team is making moves around the Steelers and not their own needs then that’s on them. The Steelers were never going TE in the first. It was a pass rusher all the way. If you think other wise you haven’t paid attention to the Steelers lately. Everyone knew when the season ended it was either a OLB or a CB and it’s the Steelers so you would have to lean more towards the OLB. Either way all you other AFCN teams “jumping” ahead of the Steelers has seemed to work out a lot better for the Steelers than any of your teams so please keep it up.

    The Steelers are fine at TE. James is super young and as Colbert said his rookie season should have never left school early. He is only 22 years old. With the weapons on the outside and in the backfield the TEs don’t have to be superstars just steady. Sorry but there aren’t very many LBs in the league that are going to be able to cover James or Grimble consistently. When you have to worry about Brown and Bryant on the outside and Bell in the backfield its going to leave a whole or a weakness in the middle so even a average TE is going to look good.

  4. The Browns may have a “beast” for a TE (best to wait a while before you crown him) but they have no one to throw the ball to him.

    And as for Steelers fans yelling HEEEEEEEETH! That’s a tribute to Heath Miller and a cheer for a play made. I hope it never stops!

  5. James went pro a year early so he’s got plenty of upside. Last year he caught 39 passes in what was essentially his rookie year, and greatly improved his blocking. Grimble is still very young as well, and continued to improve all year long in his first year on an active roster.

    Their best blocker is the underrated David Johnson, plus the Steelers carry a hard-hitting fullback named Roosevelt Nix who can also line up at TE. They’ve got a couple promising rookies for the practice squad in Scott Orndoff and Phaz Odom. In summary, they’re confident in what they’ve got and better than you might think.

    Go Steelers!

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