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Given the choice, should the Steelers keep Mark Barron or Vance McDonald?

If you were the Steelers GM for a day and could only keep one player, which one would it be for 2020?

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

There are so many questions as to how the Steelers are going to conduct business when the league year kicks off for 2020 on March 18. Will they be operating under the final year of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, or will there be a new CBA in order to help to business? Will restructures be on the table, or will the Steelers only be able to save money under the salary cap by releasing players? Who do the Steelers prepare to move on from and what players do they value highly in order to retain? Will the Steelers use the franchise or transition tag this season, and will it be on Bud Dupree?

The list of questions could go on and on. But right now, all we can go by are the situations which are presented to the Steelers at the moment. Unfortunately, the team is up against the salary cap where even the increase in value for 2020 will probably be just enough for the team to sign their draft class and possibly offer a restricted free agent tender or two.

But if the Steelers needed to save some money, who do they let go? While a couple popular names are Ramon Foster ($4 million in savings) and Anthony Chickillo ($5 million in savings), two other names which have been floated around are Vance McDonald and Mark Barron.

In the discussion I was having with BTSC editor Jeff Hartman, we each saw the choice differently. In order to settle the dispute, we thought we would lay the case out to the users here at Behind The Steel Curtain and let you all decide! So here are the rules: One of the players will be kept and one will be released. Take everything into account including salary, playing time, ease of replacement, or anything else you can think of. I’ll lay out the case for each player below and make sure you vote in the poll at the conclusion of the article.

Vance McDonald

Currently waiting to see if the Steelers are going to exercise their 2020 club option, Vance McDonald is set to count just over $7 million against the salary cap in 2020 according to If the Steelers do not exercise their option on McDonald, The dead money hit is under $1.5 million and would therefore save the Steelers almost $5.7 million toward the salary cap.

McDonald played in 14 games in 2019 and logged 684 of the offensive snaps which equated to 68.54%. McDonald played the sixth most offensive snaps in 2019 only behind the five starting offensive lineman. He caught 38 passes on 55 targets for 273 yards and three touchdowns.

If McDonald is not retained for 2020, the only other tight end from the 2019 53-man roster who would be under contract would be Zach Gentry who had one reception for 4 yards in 2019. Nick Vannett could possibly be a cheaper option than McDonald if re-signed, but is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Mark Barron

Last off-season, linebacker Mark Barron signed a two-year $12 million contract with the Steelers. With a 2020 salary cap hit of over $8 million, the Steelers could save $5.25 million if Baron is released.

In his lone season with the Steelers in 2019, Mark Barron played in 15 games and logged 750 snaps which equated to 69.19% of the plays on defense. Although he played more than 100 snaps fewer than fellow inside linebacker rookie Devin Bush, Barron logged almost twice as many snaps as Vince Williams. He finished 2019 with three passes defensed, one interception, one fumble recovery, three sacks, and 82 tackles.

With the emergence of rookie Devin Bush, Mark Barron would probably be a situational player for the Steelers in 2020 as he would share the linebacker responsibilities with Vince Williams. Beyond those three, the only other player on the Steelers roster from 2019 would be Ulysees Gilbert III as Tyler Matakevich is an unrestricted free agent.

So which player is more necessary for the 2020 season? I know some will be tempted to say either both or neither, but for this exercise you must choose one to keep. Could Mark Barron come into his own with the Steelers even more now that he has a season under his belt? Could Vance McDonald have a bounce-back season with Ben Roethlisberger hopefully under center for 16 games? Does their on field ability trump depth at the position? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Which player would you keep as the Steelers GM for the 2020 season?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Mark Barron
    (851 votes)
  • 64%
    Vance McDonald
    (1574 votes)
2425 votes total Vote Now