James caught all five of his targets for 138 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's 42-37 loss to Kansas City.
With Pittsburgh down three scores early, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled around and lofted a 26-yard pass to James for the Steelers' first score of the game. James has been getting down field thus far this season. Be aware: depth charts can be misleading. James, the No. 2 tight end for the Steelers, has 198 receiving yards to Vance McDonald's 26.
James suffered a back contusion during Saturday's preseason game against Tennessee, ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler reports.
James was removed in the second quarter after a high pass exposed him to a big hit, finishing the afternoon with two catches for 17 yards on six targets. With fellow tight ends Vance McDonald (foot) and Xavier Grimble (wrist) already in danger of missing the start of the season, Bucky Hodge is left as the team's only healthy player at the position. James and McDonald were expected to compete for the starting job, but the latter may have lost his chance after missing the vast majority of training camp and the first three weeks of the preseason. McDonald should still have a role on passing downs once he's healthy, potentially working in a timeshare with James.
James took advantage of the ongoing absence of Vance McDonald (foot), making his 21-yard grab on the Steelers' fourth possession to set up a four-yard touchdown reception by JuJu Smith-Schuster. Unlike McDonald -- his primary competition for the starting job -- the 24-year-old James has proven highly durable thus far in his career, playing all 16 games in each of his last two seasons. While he isn't utilized much downfield (8.5 career YPC), James 6-foot-7 stature affords him plenty of red-zone upside. He'll look to keep making his case for the No. 1 role against the Titans on Aug. 25 in the Steelers' third exhibition.
James will need to fend off competition from Vance McDonald, PennLive.com's Jacob Klinger reports.
The Steelers traded for McDonald and his sizable contract last August, hoping to get an eventual upgrade in the passing game. It never materialized in the regular season, but McDonald finally broke out with 10 catches for 112 yards in a playoff loss to Jacksonville. McDonald owns a career mark of 13.5 yards per catch and has a clear advantage in athleticism, but the former 49er has played just 58 games in five pro seasons, never reaching 400 yards in a year. James, on the other hand, has averaged only 8.5 yards on 90 career receptions and played 16 games in back-to-back seasons. McDonald is far more interesting for fantasy purposes, but only if he can finally stay healthy and beat out James for the lead job. Training camp and the preseason should go a long way toward determining the winner.
James, who caught both his targets for nine yards in Sunday's 28-24 win over the Browns, finishes up the 2017 season with 43 receptions (on 63 targets) for 372 yards and three touchdowns playing in all 16 games.
James came out of the gate strong, scoring two touchdowns on six catches in Week 1, but only managed to score or have more receptions just once more all season. The tight end position has taken a backseat role in Pittsburgh's juggernaut offense, and James will likely still be in a timeshare with Vance McDonald, limiting the fantasy value of both next season.
|3||9/24/18||@ TB||8:15 pm|
|6||10/14/18||@ CIN||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 7|
|9||11/4/18||@ BAL||1:00 pm|
|11||11/18/18||@ JAC||8:20 pm|
|12||11/25/18||@ DEN||4:25 pm|
|14||12/9/18||@ OAK||8:20 pm|
|16||12/23/18||@ NO||4:25 pm|