Ex-Steelers Tight Ends Work out for Browns, Titans

Steelers tight end Jesse James

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Jesse James of the Pittsburgh Steelers dives for an apparent touchdown against the New England Patriots on December 17, 2017. After official review, it was ruled an incomplete pass.

Thursday was a busy day for former Pittsburgh Steelers players looking to land new jobs around the NFL. That includes former Steelers tight end Jesse James, who had a workout with the Cleveland Browns, this according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network.

The Browns are looking for a third tight end, and James would seem to be an strong option.

The Steelers selected James, 28, in the fifth-round of the 2015 draft and played for four seasons in Pittsburgh, starting 36 of 56 games and catching 120 passes for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns, as per Pro Football Reference.

Of course, it’s a (non) catch for which he will always be remembered.

During the final minute of the fourth quarter of a December 2017 game against the Patriots, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw what appeared to be a 10-yard touchdown pass to James. The touchdown would have allowed the Steelers to overcome a fourth-quarter comeback by Tom Brady & Co., but under replay review the touchdown was overturned because “the receiver in the end zone did not survive the ground.”

James left Pittsburgh in 2019, signing a four-year, $22.6 million contract with the Detroit Lions that was an obvious overpay from day one.

In 32 games with the Lions in 2019-20, James made 18 starts but caught only 30 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, despite playing upward of a thousand offensive snaps. So it was no surprise when the Lions released him in March 2021.

He went on to ink a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears in July 2021 and appeared in 14 games (with nine starts) last season, catching seven passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Kevin Rader Visited Nashville

James wasn’t the only ex-Steelers tight end looking for work on Thursday, as Kevin Rader had a visit with the Titans, as per the NFL’s daily personnel notice.

Rader was waived by the Steelers on August 30, his spot on the roster taken by rookie sixth-round pick Connor Heyward, who slots into the role of third tight end.

He originally entered the league with the Green Bay Packers in 2018 as an undrafted free agent out of Youngstown State, where he had 44 receptions for 601 yards and four touchdowns. (One of his touchdown catches was a one-handed, behind-the-back effort that secured a walk-off postseason win for the Penguins.)

Rader has been with the Steelers — on and off — since early 2019, spending time on both the practice squad and active roster. Over the course of the last several seasons he has appeared in seven regular-season games (with two starts), contributing two catches for eight yards while seeing the majority of his snaps on special teams.

Kameron Canaday Worked out for the Falcons

In other workout news from Thursday, the Falcons worked out former Steelers long snapper Kameron Canaday, as per the aforementioned Aaron Wilson.

Canaday served as Pittsburgh’s long snapper for four consecutive seasons (2017-20) before he lost the job to current long snapper Christian Kuntz following a “down to the wire” preseason battle in the summer of 2021.

Finally, the Houston Texans worked out a half-dozen players on Thursday, including two Steelers who were released in August, namely rookie outside linebacker Tyree Johnson (Texas A&M) and rookie running back Mataeo Durant (Duke). Durant was a popular choice to be 2022’s camp phenom, thanks in part to the fact that he received the largest contract ever awarded to an undrafted free agent running back in franchise history.

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