Still Time For Steelers TE Vance McDonald To Prove His Future Worth

When the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired tight end Vance McDonald via a trade with the San Francisco 49ers prior to the start of the 2017 regular season it was easy to get a little excited about his potential in the offense and his upside. Sure, McDonald had some drops and injury concerns during his time in San Francisco, but when healthy, he was a productive player. As things have turned out, however, the Steelers really haven’t gotten a great return on their investment with McDonald. With that said, there’s still time for him to change that narrative.

Back, knee, ankle and shoulder injuries resulted in McDonald missing 6 games this season and him ultimately playing all of 270 offensive snaps. The Rice product registered just 14 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown during the regular season. It is worth noting, however, that while McDonald did have 3 drops early during the season, he proved to be a more than adequate run blocker on offense.

To put McDonald’s tangible stats and snaps played into some sort of perspective, last season tight end Ladarius Green played 140 offensive snaps for the Steelers in the 6 games that he dressed for and registered 18 receptions for 304 yards and a touchdown. Green, however, wasn’t half the blocker for the Steelers that McDonald has proven to be. Additionally, McDonald only required a total salary this season of a little more than $2.5 million while last year the Steelers paid Green $6 million.

The good news moving forward from here is that McDonald is now fully healthy and slated to contribute in the playoffs as opposed to last year with Green, who never played a snap during the Steelers three-game postseason run.

McDonald is set to earn a base salary of $3.7 million in 2018 and that amount will reportedly be fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster come April 1. In short, that base salary along with his other minor roster and workout bonuses might be a little too pricey for the Steelers based on his current production this season.

McDonald still potentially has some time to prove that he’s worthy of being kept around next season and that time starts Sunday at Heinz Field against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers figure to use a lot of two tight end personnel groupings against the Jaguars so in addition to him proving his mettle more as a run blocker on Sunday, McDonald should also get a few chances to make some plays down the field as a pass catcher as well. McDonald, by the way, only played 15 offensive snaps in the Steelers Week 5 home loss to the Jaguars. He was targeted twice in that game with one of those passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being intercepted. The other pass in his direction was deflected away by an underneath linebacker.

Assuming the Steelers can beat the Jaguars on Sunday and advance to the AFC Championship game, they’ll likely play the New England Patriots once again and that’s another potentially favorable matchup for McDonald, who missed the Week 15 game against them due to a shoulder injury.

In closing, when the Steelers acquired McDonald from the 49ers they envisioned themselves getting a tight end that could serve as a serious downfield receiving threat in addition to one that could block effectively. So far, however, all they have gotten from McDonald is mainly the latter and really not enough of it. If McDonald wants to stay in Pittsburgh past this year’s playoffs, he needs to start making an impact as a receiving threat starting Sunday against the Jaguars.

  • John Pennington

    If the steelers have a chance to draft the TE out of Oklahoma in the first round they should run the pick up as fast as they can.Vance hasn’t proved he can stay on the field with this pick they would have a good TE for years.Then Grimble can go they can take a good look at McGee this spring .This should take care of that position for years to come.

  • Z Vranic RMT

    Totally agree. I think the Steelers will target TE in the coming draft regardless if McDonald is here or not. That being said it would do him and the team nothing but good to have him have a great playoffs.

  • capehouse

    I like the South Dakota Savage. Dallas Goedert. Could be as high as a 2nd rd pick.

  • Chris92021

    Prediction: McDonald will exceed his regular season stats of 14 catches, 188 yards, and 1 TD in this postseason.

  • ciscoNoDrink

    McDonald is a a keeper based solely off of blocking.

  • ciscoNoDrink

    We need a rangy linebacker or safety.

  • CoachCot

    If that happens there is no way he gets cut and no way we spend a top 3 pick on a TE

  • Chris92021

    Honestly, there aren’t that many good TEs coming into this draft. The best one I’ve seen is Hayden Hurst and he’s only 3 years younger than McDonald. I see a bunch of guys who can be like Jesse James in this upcoming draft. Nice players but no one who is going to wow you. But I still think McDonald will exceed his regular season numbers in the next 3 games.

  • Jason Vancil

    We need all that. What will be the priority will be answered a little better by Draft time.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    Can the Steelers rework Vance’s contract and keep him next year?

  • kev4heels

    There is a dearth of 2nd round TE’s in this year’s draft: Andrews, Hurst, Goedert, Gisicki, Fumagali and Schultz. There might even be one of these available in the 3rd. That would be very nice value.

  • Sam Clonch

    Don’t think you know what “dearth” means.

  • Terrible Towlie

    like a plethora?

  • CountryClub

    3 games for the rest of your life.

  • heath miller

    nope.. abundance of … sh&t pot full…. ton of …. several ..but not dearth …. lol but thats ok .. still was an insightful post by kev

  • Mezzetin

    Si El Wapo…

  • Orlysteel

    Think Roethlisberger will push for his re signing, 83s succesor is on board.

  • AndreH

    Mcdonald, James and Bryant need to come up big in this one. Jaguars are going to try an take Bell, Brown and Juju away. So I ‘m hoping these guys step up in a big way.

  • Orlysteel

    McDonald shows flashes of you Mr. Miller now he needs to be durable like you, you didn’t miss too many games , you’re one an all time Steelers great and a fan favorite, miss you dearly.

  • kev4heels

    LOL…yeah, I messed that one up. Let’s just say there are a good amount of rd 2 talents at TE. 😉

  • Mark

    We need the following positions to stay competitive, FA or Draftee. 1st round ILB, 2nd Round OLB, 3rd Round Safety. Any combination of those will work. I think for the price of Glass McDonald we keep him around. A TE isn’t crucial to our offensive success with Ben and our WRs’ We need more help on defense, I would also like to see Joe Haden go to free safety and let Mitchell walk. Put Sutton at CB along with Burns and Hilton. Find another FA and let Coty walk as well. Incoming FS to play in Dime replacing Gay.

  • Brian Tollini

    I really think Vance could be a legit #1 TE if he can stay on the field. He finally showed his athleticism in the Texans game, I think his biggest game of the year is about to happen.

  • Rocksolid20

    Every conversation of Vance always starts with “IF”

  • Taylor Williams

    Brown may not even play Sunday. Its up to juju, Bryant, Rogers to make plays

  • heath miller

    thanks so much … i miss the game.. miss ben and the guys .. iim getting kinda bored in retirement an if they dont resign vance i might come out of retirement next year so my boy ben and i can hoist the lombardi and ride off into the sunset togehter? no promises though … HEEEEATH

  • Orlysteel

    Thanks Heath.

  • heath miller

    your welcome .. send me a FB and i will sign it . ( amazing how many people fall for that and i sell them on ebay *wink* ) HEEEATTH

  • jsteeler

    the run game and seam game for Ben will be much improved with Vance in the line up. Bell biggest runs came off Decastro & Vance this year. 32 yarder and a 31 yarder.

  • Brenton deed

    Health is the only issue.

  • #beatthejags/pats

    Love his athleticism , I think with a training camp with Ben he has a huge season. Definitely keep him, these rookie te’s are a huge crapshoot. Remember when the ravens snaked us for max Williams? Where is he now? Not enough time for a rookie to develope with Ben.