“He still won’t,” Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said of McDonald’s playing time increasing substantially this season.
“He’s never going to play the full game. That’s never going to happen.”
That is a stunning quote to most of Steelers Nation that makes the majority shudder. Another player has to eat up the 562 snaps since Jesse James bolted to the Detroit Lions. Do the Steelers get away from more two-tight end sets or fill the void with players already on the team or find one outside of the organization? Or another solution to this revelation?
Inexplicably, general manager Kevin Colbert handed out nearly $2 million dollars for Xavier Grimble in 2019. The second-stringer brings no comfort to the heart of fans. It is not only his inexcusable failing of fundamentals in the Denver Broncos game in 2018 but his near-complete lack of usage over his first four years of his career and his production during those games.
No one will confuse Grimble with being an elite blocking tight end, nor give him oodles of accolades with his 11 career receptions or his occasional drops fans have seen in the preseason.
Fifth rounder Zach Gentry is the only other viable tight end on the Steelers current 91-man roster who has a legit shot to make the team. Gentry showed soft hands on a touchdown reception in the first preseason game, but Steeler Nation knows he is a project and his upside may be limited.
With the declaration that McDonald will not play more snaps, will Colbert look to pull the trigger on a trade? If so, he might be wise to do so quickly. Fans remember McDonald’s first season with the team and how long it took him to get acclimated to the offense and become productive. Bringing in another player is not simple. The team would have to find a trading partner with a tight end who they will part with that we believe would be productive enough to eat up meaningful snaps. Then there are the salary cap issues the team is dealing with. As it stands now, Pittsburgh is right up against the cap and may need some cap relief just to be compliant when the season begins.
Could the team ditch the two tight end formations that have been a staple of the offense for the past number of years? Would this include more four wideout sets, two-back sets, or jumbo packages with extra linemen? (Bring in the wishbone offense!)
The team may not tip their hand to exotic play packages in the preseason, but the base scheme may give fans insight into which direction the team may proceed and the personnel involved at the tight end position. With a slew of offensive weapons with limited past production, or are new to the Steelers, fans can only hope this does not bubble up and become problematic.
Does the quote from Fichtner make you uneasy? Please post your comment in the comments section below.