Don’t Forget About Vance

Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

By: Michael Stiffler

This will be his 4th season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is no longer considered the clear cut number one tight end for the team, thanks to the off-season signing of Eric Ebron. There isn’t a buzz around his name like there was in previous seasons. I am talking about Vance McDonald. 

McDonald’s career in Pittsburgh has been quite the roller coaster since being acquired by the Steelers in 2017. He only appeared in 10 games battling injury and ended up splitting time pretty evenly with then Steelers tight end, Jesse James. Fast forward to 2018, and McDonald and James were still splitting time, but McDonald showed flashes of what he could do. I think all of Steeler Nation remembers his famous stiff arm in Tampa Bay. Big, strong, athletic, fast, he had the play-making aspect of his game on display. He amassed 72 targets, ending the season with 50 catches for 610 yards.

In 2019, expectations were high. This would be the first full year for McDonald to show what he could do. No more Jesse James, and Antonio Brown and the Steelers decided to part ways. This would leave the door wide open to become peppered with targets and prove his worth. Unfortunately for him, this wouldn’t go his way. The Steelers offense ranked near the bottom of the league with Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges under center. The passing game tended to favor short routes to the receivers leaving McDonald to vastly under-perform expectations. It was a complete disappointment. 

Now McDonald will be tasked with splitting time with Ebron. Although Ebron is the flashier of the two names, McDonald should not be overlooked. This season, he will be the main blocking tight end for the Steelers. To put in perspective what this means, the Steelers aligned with 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end) 70% of the time last season and 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends) 20% of the time. Those Steelers love their tight ends.

Expect a big dose of McDonald and Ebron, with McDonald out snapping Ebron to help keep the defense guessing in one tight end sets. Even when the Steelers bring in their two tight end sets, keep an eye on McDonald to find the blown coverage while the defense focuses elsewhere. Expect a lot of two tight end sets near the red zone to take advantage of their height, size, and speed advantage on defenders. 

One more thing that will give McDonald a huge boost, Ben Roethlisberger


Who do you think will have the better season? Do you expect big things from the tight end position? Drop a comment below!


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