Film Room: Vance McDonald Looks The Part At Tight End

You know what would be great about Vance McDonald? You know, other than holding on to more passes thrown his way (which, in fairness, he has been doing)? Staying healthy. Yeah. That’d be great. Because he does some things real well, and also helps limit Jesse James’ role, which is a good thing.

Jesse James is what I’m going to call a bend-but-don’t-break blocker, which is not what you want. He often looks like he’s being pushed around and yet just gets enough of the guy to let Le’Veon Bell squeeze through. McDonald actually looks and blocks like a tight end.

But if he keeps getting himself hurt—it looks like he’s going to miss his third game of the season with a third different injury—then, well, you can’t count on the guy. In fairness, in this instance he was rolled up on from behind on a kick return, not much you can do about that.

But let’s talk about some of that blocking, which is what I want to focus on here, even if this was the game that he caught his first touchdown pass with the team on two receptions for 16 yards. This was actually one of the more frustrating runs of the day because of its potential for more thanks to McDonald’s third-level block, had Bell not gotten tripped up. The linebacker saved at least 10 yards here and perhaps more.

Later in the second quarter, the Steelers tried an end-around for Martavis Bryant that didn’t work out so well. It’s partly because the left tackle didn’t get enough of the linebacker, forcing McDonald to pick up on him, and partly because the Colts just read it so well. The tight end was put into a no-win situation.

This is one of my favorite plays of the game, and JuJu Smith-Schuster deserves to be highlighted here as well, as the both do a great job of clearing a lane here for a screen pass to Bryant that goes for 13 yards—for those of you who complain about the screen passes, by the way.

Here, on this third-and-one run inside the red zone, McDonald used both momentum and power to drive the right end out of the play to allow Bell space. Credit again goes to Smith-Schuster, as well as Eli Rogers.

Then there was the obligatory 10-plus-yard run for James Conner that we apparently see once a game, with the well-executed counter-trey, the tight end and David DeCastro leading the way.

This final play was not necessarily anything special in the grand scheme of things, but just watch the power and drive from McDonald here. That’s what a tight end is supposed to look like blocking.

The Steelers got a good player when they traded for this guy. The real question is simply going to be how healthy he can stay. The team just plain has success when he is on the field, more often than not.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Steeler Nation!

    He rode him like a cheap stick horse on that last play. Good work. I’m with you, we need him on the field. Speaking of the quick screens, did anyone notice Miami getting shredded-again-by the quick screens vs Carolina over and over again Monday night?

  • NinjaMountie

    I knew he had drop issues. Did he always have injury issues as well or is this special for us?

  • Av232

    2 things.

    First, it looks like he does a great job of generating power with his lower half.

    Second, it’s the obligatory 10 yard Conner run that ends with him limping to the sideline.

  • Steve Johnson

    Yes, he has always had durability issues. A friend of mine at work is a huge 49er’s Fan. He keeps up with team daily, he said San Francisco had enough, they couldn’t depend on him. I wish Colbert would stop picking up damage goods via F/A.

  • falconsaftey43

    Would you rather have DJ instead of McDonald right now? I wouldn’t. Even with the injuries he’s suffered. He’s a much better player and they didn’t give up much to get him.

  • Doug Andrews

    I’d like to see Conner get more snaps. Pass protection issues are a problem but Connor looks effective and has a different style than LB. Could help to wear down defenses.

  • Sam Clonch

    Don’t think we have to worry about seeing Miami in the POs again this year (unfortunately!)

  • falconsaftey43

    I agree. Lots of rookie RBs have pass pro problems, but teams figure out how to work around it. (just look at Kareem Hunt, Williams destroyed him twice for a sack when West went out and had to play on more passing downs, but they’ve found a way still get him a ton of touches.

  • Mark

    Vance sticks like glue, I just hope he can stay healthy down the stretch

  • CountryClub

    He’s got some wheels too. He moves really well for a TE.

  • T3xassteelers

    How long do we have him for?

  • Matthew Marczi

    A while, if they want him. He’s under contract through 2021, but it’s structured in such a way that there is no dead money if they release him prior to the start of the next season. His cap hits rise after this year to $4.6, 5.1, 6.4, and 6.4 over the next four years.

  • Doug Andrews

    Even though the Steelers shut him down i’m impressed with Marlin Mack from the Colts.

  • T3xassteelers

    Ahhh gotcha. I think he’s been worth it, so I hope to see him next year haha