Jesse James injures back, becomes 3rd hurt Steelers tight end

PITTSBURGH -- Help wanted: Steelers tight ends with any NFL experience.

Jesse James is the latest Pittsburgh tight end to go down, leaving Saturday's 16-6 win over the Tennessee Titans with a back contusion. Coach Mike Tomlin said he did not know the severity of the injury.

James was the team's only healthy player from the position's primary three-man rotation, and how he got hurt -- getting hit while going high for a 12-yard catch over the middle early in the second quarter -- makes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger uneasy.

"I was most disappointed throwing to him," said Roethlisberger, who completed 11 of 18 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. "We've had some good connections in the past. That's on me. He was in the right spots. I was sailing [the football] a little bit. It's one of those things where you see a big target and relax and don't think about the pinpoint accuracy. I need to do that, and I hate that he got hit because of a pass I threw tonight."

James fell hard on his back and walked gingerly to the sideline.

Starter Vance McDonald (foot) has missed the entire preseason and hopes to be ready for Week 1 and is close to partially participating in practices. Xavier Grimble underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb/wrist area. He'll be back Week 1 at the earliest.

The Steelers could have all three -- or none -- for Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. The next tight end up is Bucky Hodges, who has never caught an NFL pass.

The Steelers have struggled to replace Heath Miller since his retirement two offseasons ago. The team signed Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million deal but released him after the 2016 season due to concussion and ankle issues. McDonald arrived before last season via a trade from San Francisco but missed seven games due to injury and finished with 14 catches for 188 yards, though a big playoff performance against Jacksonville was promising.

James -- the subject of the "surviving the ground" catch-rule debate after his reversed touchdown in Week 15 against the New England Patriots -- has emerged as a steady option with 43 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. He has had a strong preseason and is known to be durable.

"I'm taking care of my body. I feel good," James said on Thursday. "Getting better every day, progressing well."

In other Steelers injury news, wide receiver James Washington suffered an oblique injury Saturday, and wide receiver Marcus Tucker suffered an ankle injury.