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 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."