When news of the Pittsburgh Steelers trading for tight end Nick Vannett of the Seattle Seahawks broke on Tuesday night, the immediate thought among the Steelers’ faithful was Vance McDonald shoulder injury must be pretty severe. Seen in a sling around the locker room on Monday, many feared McDonald’s long-term availability would be in question. Between trading for Venette and the Steelers adding a third tight end to their practice squad in Alize Mackall on Tuesday, it was a natural conclusion to assume McDonald’s injury was a factor in the decisions.
Steelers tight end Vance McDonald was spotted Tuesday with his shoulder in a sling; now Pittsburgh is trading for soon-to-be former Seahawks’ TE Nick Vannett.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 25, 2019
It was not long after the announcement of the trade the reports began to surface that McDonald’s injury was not as serious as many assumed. Coach Tomlin confirmed these reports and his press conference on Wednesday.
Coach Tomlin said Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble were injured during the game and the trade of TE Nick Vannett was made not because they're counting out any TEs for MNF, but they wanted to fortify depth at the position.— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) September 25, 2019
When asked about when the resulting roster move would be made in order to have room for Venette, Tomlin answered that the team had until 4 PM on Wednesday to decide. A lot of theories were floating around regarding who could be released, including letting go of a wide receiver. Surprisingly, after not ruling out either tight end for Monday’s game in the earlier press conference, the Steelers placed Xavier Grimble on the Reserve/Injured List.
What makes the situation so unusual with Grimble was that he left Sunday’s game against the 49ers without any mention from the Steelers. His absence was not addressed in the post game interview by Coach Tomlin, and no status report was given on Grimble during the game similar to the Steelers official report on Vance McDonald.
It wasn’t until Wednesday’s press conference that Grimble was even mentioned by the team regarding an injury. In fact, it was reported that Grimble stated to reporters on Tuesday he was excited for the opportunity to be able to fill-in for McDonald if he were to miss any significant time.
It was only yesterday Grimble said he was looking forward to more playing time if McDonald could not play. “It’s exciting. I hate that Vance is down. We need him. We need everyone here. If someone is down, someone else has to step in and help us get a win. That’s what I’ll do.”— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) September 25, 2019
Another curious point from the Grimble situation is until he went on the IR, it wasn’t even disclosed what injury he was dealing with. Coach Tomlin said Grimble left Sunday’s game early, but did not say what caused his departure. Personally, I was extremely disappointed in the reporters present at the press conference for not asking about what was bothering Grimble for him to miss time. It was almost as if no one cared to report on the situation.
Not long after the 4 PM deadline on Wednesday, the Steelers issued a statement that Xavier Grimble had been placed on the Reserve/injured List with a calf injury.
With the weekly press conference already over and the focus on the Steelers need to gain their first victory in 2019 on Monday night, chances are the entire Xavier Grimble situation will be swept under the rug and not really addressed. Could Grimble return after week 11 as part of the “IR:designated to return” rule? Is his 2019 season over? Was something discovered on Tuesday which caused Grimble’s designation, or was his slight injury in Sunday’s game merely an excuse to hold onto a player so he would be available for the 2020 season?
Chances are these questions are not going to get answered. If the Pittsburgh media cared enough about Grimble as a player, they would’ve asked the questions before he was placed on IR. Perhaps the indifference towards the situation is that the media and fans feel the same way about Grimble: it’s time to move on and it’s not a significant loss.
Welcome to the Steelers, Nick Vannett.