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Vance McDonald predicts a “breakout season” for the Steelers in 2018

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The trade acquisition looks to turn heads in his first full season in black-and-gold.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The lead-up to the 2017 regular season was fun for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. For once, their favorite team didn’t just sit back and watch other teams make moves, they were the team movin’ and shakin’.

The team was able to add Joe Haden after he was released by the Cleveland Browns, but they also added Vance McDonald via trade with the San Francisco 49ers. But to say McDonald had a rough season would be an understatement.

After being riddled with ankle and shoulder injuries, McDonald was able to tally just 14 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown last year. Not exactly mind-blowing statistics, but McDonald is ready for next season. After all, he was acquired by the Steelers only one week before the start of the regular season — not really a ton of time to get acclimated. But he sees 2018 going differently.

“It will be my breakthrough season,” McDonald promised Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “For sure.”

What makes him so confident? Something as simple as this being his first offseason with the Steelers can make a huge difference.

“It’s good, just being able to take the time and slow things down in terms of the mental load and get details of all the routes and stuff,” McDonald said after the first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

Since the retirement of Heath Miller, the Steelers have struggled to find a tight end who’s a difference-maker at the position. The failed Ladarius Green experiment, plus Jesse James’ limitations, resulted in the Steelers moving on McDonald prior to last season. And while fans remember the playoff loss to the Jaguars chiefly for the horrid Pittsburgh defense, you can’t forget what McDonald did in that game.

He caught a career-high 10 passes for a career-high 112 yards and a touchdown. Despite the loss, it was a great game for the tight end. “Probably my best career game,” said McDonald.

If that game is an indicator of what to expect in the future, McDonald might be correct in his prediction for a breakout season in 2018.