When last we saw Vance McDonald, he was having his best game as a Steeler. McDonald caught 10 passes for 112 yards in the playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That one game nearly equaled his output for the entire season. For the year McDonald only managed 14 catches for 188 yards, and one touchdown. While some could argue that one playoff game was a fluke, it is in fact an indication of what is possible for the Pittsburgh tight end. With players like Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and Ju Ju Smith-Schuster garnering so much attention, it should be relatively easy for a tight end to succeed in this offense. Add a talent like Vance McDonald, and you have the recipe for a potential Pro-Bowl candidate in the making.
Before we get too excited, Vance McDonald has to overcome two things that have plagued him throughout his career. First and foremost is staying healthy. The Pittsburgh tight end is yet to play a full season in the NFL with a variety of injuries. He managed only ten games in his first season with the team. A full sixteen games would go a long way in helping him become a standout player in this league. The next hurdle is the propensity for dropping passes. McDonald had a reputation for this in San Francisco, and it showed up last year in Pittsburgh as well. While he’ll never be considered a great pass catcher, improving on his dropped passes is a must to get to the next level.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been searching for a Heath Miller replacement since the day he retired. From singing expensive free agents like Ladarius Green, to drafting Jesse James, nothing has worked so far. Kevin Colbert tried a trade this time, and he may have finally come up with the player he’s been looking for all along. McDonald seems to have done the hard part already. Gaining the confidence of Ben Roethlisberger is no easy task, but after last year’s playoff game that just might be the case. A full slate of games in 2018 might just end up with the first Pro-Bowl tight end in Pittsburgh since that guy #83 did it in 2012. If that were to happen, this already dangerous offense would be nearly unstoppable.