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Steelers News: Vance “Vanimal” McDonald making a big hit with fans and teammates

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back-to-back winners for the first time in this 2018 season after a solid performance vs. the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 6. With the team now able to relax on their bye-week in Week 7, they will hope to improve on their 3-2-1 record by beating the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in Weeks 8 and 9.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how Vance McDonald is not just making a huge impact on the fan base, but also with the rest of the team. McDonald is a bruiser, and his style is rubbing off on the rest of the team.

Let’s get to the news:

Tight end McDonald becoming a big hit with Steelers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

David DeCastro saw a string of Cincinnati Bengals players converge on Vance McDonald in the second quarter Sunday, so he started preparing for the next play.

Trouble was, McDonald wasn’t finished with this play.

First, he lowered a shoulder into linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who fell to the ground at the sideline before leaving the game for the rest of the first half. Then, McDonald sidestepped safety Shawn Williams, pulling away from a leg tackle. He also shed linebacker Preston Brown with little difficulty. It was only after cornerback William Jackson stood up McDonald and nose tackle Andrew Billings swooped in from the side that the Bengals finally brought down the Pittsburgh Steelers tight end after a 26-yard gain.

“It was crazy,” said DeCastro, the Steelers’ All-Pro guard. “You’re like, ‘Oh, he’s tackled,’ and you look back and he is still going. Then, (you think), ‘OK, he’s tackled,’ and he’s still going.

“It was pretty impressive.”

The nifty catch-and-run, in which McDonald broke four tackles and left several other Bengals players in his wake, set up the Steelers’ second touchdown in a 28-21 victory at Paul Brown Stadium. It was one of a regular-season, career-high seven catches (for 68 yards) in a game for McDonald, who is finally free of injuries and is making the most of his second season with the Steelers.

Like his vicious stiff-arm of Tampa Bay safety Chris Conte, McDonald’s burst through half of the Bengals defense made its way onto the highlight reel that coach Mike Tomlin shows his players in Monday film review. And, like that stiff-arm, McDonald’s jaunt earned the admiration of his teammates, especially because it temporarily knocked Steelers’ nemesis Burfict temporarily out of the game.

“It’s like, ‘Wow, I’ve really got to follow him and support him,’ ” said wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who delivered his own memorable knockout shot on Burfict in December. “You never know what is going to happen with him.”

McDonald takes it as a challenge when defenders try to hit him high. Conte learned that the hard way when he was flattened on Monday Night Football in Week 3. Already playing with an injured knee, Conte never returned to the game and landed on injured reserve the next day.

“I like the physical aspect of catching and running and seeing what I can do in open grass against defenders,” McDonald said.

The lack of fear that McDonald displays when confronting defenders reminds some veteran Steelers players of another popular, highly effective tight end from recent vintage.

“That’s some Heath Miller-type stuff,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said.

Gruesome injury can’t dampen friendship between Steelers safeties Allen, Golden

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Their friendship has intertwined as much as their football careers.

And for one late-night moment in August, Malik Golden and Marcus Allen literally crossed paths again. But this time, their physical interaction had catastrophic results for Golden’s right knee.

Former Penn State teammates who started next to each other in college and are both safeties with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Allen and Golden converged in a hustling attempt to make a play during the final quarter of the final game of the preseason.

Golden chased Carolina’s Kyle Allen from the outside as the scrambling quarterback took off around the left end.

Marcus Allen came flying over from the middle of the field.

Kyle Allen went down — the former Nittany Lions shared the tackle — but so did Golden. His right knee bent in a frightening direction after Marcus Allen slammed into it.

Golden’s lower leg dangled gruesomely as he grabbed it, and he was in severe pain.

Marcus Allen felt an anguish that seemed even worse. He grabbed both sides of his facemask in disbelief and grief, then he took his helmet off and prayed. Golden was loaded onto a motorized cart minutes later. Allen approached and gave a heartfelt hug, his head buried into Golden’s chest.

“Mentally, it messed with me,” Allen said. “Because that’s my boy.”

“It was rough on him,” said Golden. “I know he felt it.”

So when Golden finally began walking without crutches earlier this month, Allen was just as happy as his injured friend.

“He’s on his way back, and I know he’ll get back,” Allen said. “But definitely, if I ever get to play this year, this season will definitely be for Malik. We go way back. We have so much history that’s built up so much friendship.”

Golden was a redshirt sophomore when Allen arrived at Penn State in 2014.

“I would ask him for advice, because he was like a big brother to me,” Allen said. “And when I first got (to the Steelers as a fifth-round pick), it felt like a repeat: asking questions, always being in his ear. To still have him around is just a blessing.”

Golden returned to the Steelers in January after he made enough of an impression during his rookie training camp. That season, too, ended with an injury in the preseason finale against Carolina (a groin).

So in this camp he was in the running for the secondary’s final roster spot, and it’s possible Allen, in a cruel irony, took Golden’s job when he collided with his knee.

“You never know what happens until (roster) decisions are made. That’s the fun part, the surprise,” Golden said.

“But I thought I was doing (well). … Special teams-wise and ‘D,’ I was doing what I was asked.”

Golden landed on injured reserve and has been a regular around UPMC Rooney Sports Complex and at practice, appearing popular among his teammates, frequently joking with them even when they’ve fired back with good-natured shots about his crutches.

“They keep me in check,” Golden said. “If I wasn’t here, I don’t know how I would be doing.”

How the Steelers use gaming to dominate the weight room

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Ryan Shazier’s severe spinal injury suffered in December hasn’t stopped him from outshining many of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates in the weight room.

All he needs are two orange fob pads the size of a small wallet.

“Ryan Shazier’s hand strength was off the charts compared with all of the other players,” Steelers strength and conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont said. “We’re sitting here competing and Ryan is kicking butt.”

The Steelers recently signed a four-year deal with Activbody and ActivSports products, which use technology to “measure, quantify, and improve muscle function for isometric and traditional gym-based exercises,” according to the company.

For the Steelers, that means players occasionally ditching the squat rack to huddle around a table full of iPads that track isometric scores.

The Activ5 isometric tool the Steelers utilize can isolate muscles, simulate weight and track balance. Players can place the fobs between outstretched hands for chest exercises or between the knees to improve the midline/adductor area of the body (this reporter failed miserably in a demo).

Giemont can set various time intervals for endurance, and he can gauge a player’s stats such as total weight lifted and muscle accuracy.

More importantly, those stats simulate competition.

”It’s instantaneous engagement,” Giemont said. “For the modern-day athlete that plays video games right or left, that’s one of the things that it does -- it engages the players.”

With 30-plus years in the NFL and 11 years with coach Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Giemont always was fascinated with how data influences performance. The numbers available to him over the years weren’t overly helpful, and ActivBody offered an alternative.

The new data was only the beginning.

”I was solely numbers-driven, but then I found out they’ve got something here, because these guys love these video-style exercise games,” Giemont said.