Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

James Takes Unsual Route to Starting Berth at Tight End

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

James Takes Unsual Route to Starting Berth at Tight End

Article excerpt

Jesse James wasn't drafted to be a No. 1 tight end. For two seasons with the Steelers, he was viewed as a capable backup to Heath Miller in 2015 and supposedly Ladarius Green last year.

But curious circumstances kept unfolding for James. Miller, the team's all-time leader in receptions by a tight end, retired, somewhat surprisingly, after the 2015 season. And Green, signed as a valuable free agent before the 2016 season, played in only six games because of recurring concussion-like symptoms and was released two weeks ago when he failed the team's physical.

All of a sudden, the player who was not viewed as a No. 1 tight end is the starting tight end. And the Steelers are comfortable with that.

And so is James.

"I was in a similar situation last year because we weren't sure what was going on with Ladarius all year, even going into the season," James said. "We were expecting him to play a large role."

That never materialized. After signing a four-year, $20 million contract in free agency, Green was placed on the physically unable to perform list in training camp and never came off until the ninth game of the regular season against Dallas. Initially, the reason he was placed on the PUP list was given as recovering from offseason ankle injury.

But the reason he stayed on the list so long was concussion-related symptoms that the Steelers were unaware of when they signed him. When he was finally cleared to play, Green appeared in six games, caught 18 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown, and showed flashes of why the Steelers were eager to sign him and insert him into their offense.

But, after taking a hit to the head from safety George Iloka in a Dec. 12 game in Cincinnati, Green was placed in concussion protocol and never played again. So James finished the season where he began - as the No. …

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