Vance McDonald: ‘Crazy’ How Different Game Is With Good QB Play

Vance McDonald, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ newest offensive component who was acquired via trade during the preseason, has some lofty ambitions for himself and his tight end group. Ideally, those ambitions begin with them getting back out on the field and healthy, because both he and Jesse James have already been nicked up.

During the course of the week, the former 49ers tight end—whose former team as of last night is the first team in the league to reach three losses—spoke to reporters about what he told James after he was brought in a few weeks back.

We’ve talked about being the best two-tight-end tandem in the league”, he told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “Not many teams use the tight ends like we do here”. He pointed to the fact that pass-catching is only one of many components that the Steelers as their tight ends to do, citing the need for stout run-blocking and the ability to identify protections.

James said that he took the trade for McDonald personally because he viewed it as something of an indictment of his own performance. Through two games, he has responded with 10 receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns. 6.8 yards per reception is actually abysmal, though that does include two short touchdowns, and he has been working on a bum ankle for half of his playing time.

As for McDonald, he is still working his way from a back injury that forced him to sit out the game on Sunday, which prompted the Steelers to use Xavier Grimble a fair bit, with a splash of Chris Hubbard as a tackle-eligible early in the game before he had to play at both tackle positions in the second half.

He drew a holding penalty on his first play, and he failed to hold on to his lone target to date after he was hit by a defender, but the former second-round pick, it should be pointed out, should be given time to adjust to his new settings after spending five years in San Francisco.

After playing with average-or-worse talent at the quarterback position, however, McDonald said that “it’s crazy how much it changes the game” to be playing with a quarterback at Ben Roethlisberger’s level, who is by virtually any standard regarded as a top five quarterback.

“Not necessarily the control he has and the game and offensive playcalling”,he said, “but just kind of how he’s done things so many times, and knows how he wants things run. Being able to get those reps with him, detailing a route, a release. It’s pretty cool”.

While he has his sights set on a goal that I don’t think they are likely to achieve, it is at least something to shoot for. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be driven toward something better, and there isn’t much debate that the tight end group could use improvement.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • nutty32

    Perfect setup for him to break out this Sunday. Please truck someone.

  • VaDave

    It would be good to see him on the field.

  • Biggie

    Can’t wait to see him on the field this week. He could really upgrade the overall TE depth for us and give us another playmaker down the middle of the field, causing more nightmares for defenses and opening up the receivers from double coverage.

  • Jim Foles

    James has an abysmal yac stat… hence mcdonald.

  • Truth Dispensary

    Why does it seem Marczi is always under-projecting the skill level of out TE’s? Jesse James is better than many give him credit for & McDonald just doubles down on an already far above average TE group!

  • rystorm06

    Want to see this guy do something, so far, I’m not impressed. All he showed me was he can tackle pretty good and draw a holding penalty

  • Conserv_58

    Not only was McDonald dinged up, but since signing with the Steelers his private life has been a whirlwind. He recently found a place to live with his wife and children other than a hotel room. They moved in on Wednesday. He doesn’t have the pressure of worrying about his family being unsettled anymore. Now he is free to concentrate on his job. I expect him to make considerable strides in getting acclimated and settled into his new offense.

  • Conserv_58

    Try showing a little appreciation for what he’s been going through since being traded for.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I don’t think anyone is down on Jessie James. I mean if he had a better YAC yard average I’d give him the nod as an above average TE. His blocking looks slightly improved and he’s always had good hands but there’s really not much YAC yards to speak off which puts him in the average TE category as well as might have been the reason for the trade. Who knows but with both these guys healthy i like the TE group as a whole. With the WR group and I throw Bell in the same group the TE group should start seeing some opportunities for some big plays

  • rystorm06

    It’s a business, all I care about are Steelers wins

  • Matthew Marczi

    You actually think the Steelers’ tight ends are far above average?

  • Joseph Nerges

    I’d be happy to see him not drop a pass. Something that he was noted for in the past.

  • razaard2

    And to think lots of people were saying James would be cut after McDonald’s signing and now Vance can’t even get in the field…
    James even used a leveon bell-esque juke on a run after the catch lol

  • Pghomer

    And you’ve got that…

  • John Pennington

    He needs to get back in the game and make some catches dont need a cheerleader and if he does play no holding calls please.

  • Daryl Bennett

    The Steelers don’t require them to be Gronk type TEs, they are usually outlet receivers or an extra red zone target.

  • AndyR34

    His ‘pedigree’ says he should be able to do that, but…his performance to date…especially in SF…gives an indication that we are going to be disappointed.

  • AndyR34

    But not because of any contribution from McDonald

  • Michael Conrad

    The 49ers were going to cut him. I’m not sure what we have in him. He now has had the time to understand the playbook and what Ben wants. He is what he is. Next stop would you like fries with that.

  • Jaybird

    If our TEs were better , we wouldn’t be using them as outlets most of the time. James is not a great reciever, but I give him more credit than most when it comes to his hands. I think he has very good hands. But man is he slow and I think he’s a TERRIBLE blocker, especially inline. Grimble- who knows what the hell is wrong with him. Why can’t he get on the field and why don’t they throw him a pass to him once in a while?
    McDonald is new and haven’t seen much of him so the jury is still out on him as far as being a Steeler TE.
    I’m still pissed we didn’t get Kittle in the 4th round of the draft.

  • Daryl Bennett

    If the TEs were better they would still be outlet receivers. Too many mouths to feed already on offense.

  • Jaybird

    DB , I think if we had a TE like a healthy Green last year, we wouldn’t be dumping 6 yrd passes off to him . We have Rogers,JUJU and Bell to be Ben’s safety valves. But I do agree with you- alot of weapons already on this team .

  • Locorogue

    most f his time was with a horrifying QB, this QB made every offensive player look bad. i give every offensive player who played with the communist Kaepernick a pass

  • AndyR34

    What evidence do you have that Kaepernick is a communist? Or are you just another bigoted a*hole that needs to degenerate to name-calling because you disagree with someone politically and cannot summon up the ability to articulate a convincing argument as to why they are wrong and you are supposedly correct. My guess is the latter.