Jesse James Moving Past Infamous Non-Catch

Steelers TE Focusing on Play in Contract Year

Josh Rowntree
August 04, 2018 - 1:48 pm
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) fails to hold the ball as he falls across the goal line against New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) and strong safety Duron Harmon (30)

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

‘Was it a catch?’

That was a question uttered far too often last year, particularly in Pittsburgh, where the confusion over the NFL’s catch rules manifested itself in Pittsburgh’s 27-24 loss to New England, a game that cost the team home-field advantage in the AFC Playoffs.. 

Steelers tight end Jesse James was in the middle of the controversy, having appeared to catch a go-ahead touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 28 seconds left. But, officials reviewed the play and overturned the call, saying James did not possess control and “survive the ground.”

The NFL has worked to fix the rule and, Friday, had officials show the team examples of what constitutes a catch.

“I just felt like they were very inconsistent in the way the called it,” James said Saturday at Saint Vincent College. “All season, you saw a catch that was a catch one week, the next week, you see the same thing and it wasn’t a catch. I think it frustrated a lot of people throughout the League and that’s why they made the adjustment.”

One of the plays shown to the Steelers was James’ non-catch, which would now stand with the new rules. 

“Oh, it’s awesome,” James sarcastically said of rewatching the moment with his teammates.. 

“It is what it is, I don’t really care. It’s in the past. We lost our playoff game after that, so we didn’t realize deserver a shot at going after the Super Bowl. As much pressure as people try to put on that catch, I’ve moved past it. Far beyond.”

While he admits to being over it, he is pleased with the rule change. 

“I just hope the officials can call it fair all the way around,” he said. “I think they struggled last year to keep the consistency through the catch. I’m hoping this rule gives them an easier basis to base what is a catch and what isn’t.”

James’ focus has been on this coming season, which is important. He was listed as the team's second tight end on the first official depth chart, released Saturday. He is also entering the final year of his rookie deal, having not been given an extension so far this offseason.

“I just control what I can control, play football,” he said. “That’s my job, so just do what I can do here and grow as a player and do what I can. There’s nothing I can do with contracts and stuff like that, so I’m just going to play ball.”

The 6-foot-7 fourth-year player out of Penn State has 90 career catches for 766 yards and seven touchdown. The numbers don’t blow you away, but James has been a meaningful part of the Steelers’ offense at times, including a ten catch, 97-yard performance against Baltimore in December that helped clinch the AFC North title.

James, however, had just five catches in Pittsburgh’s final four games, including just one in the AFC Divisional Round loss to Jacksonville. On top of that, his blocking has been questionable, at best. 

“I feel good about it,” James said of that part of his game. “I try to improve every year, but I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on what I’ve been able to do so far. 

“I want to get better at everything. I have a lot of room to grow still. I can still get better every day when I’m out here. I don’t want to just pick one area of my game. I want to get better in all aspects.”

Hear more from Jesse James below.