The Pittsburgh Steelers global fan base was introduced to the Vanimal in 2018 when Vance McDonald made a name for himself with the stiff-arm heard round the world on Monday Night Football, and his punishing style after the catch.
McDonald turned the page from an injury plagued 2017, and had fans excited to see what McDonald had in store in 2019 after he posted some very solid number sin 2018. What happened was a disappointing season that saw McDonald finish with just 38 passes for 273 yards.
In reflection of the season, McDonald was brutally honest about his production, or lack thereof.
“I think I took some steps backwards unfortunately as a player,” McDonald told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “I don’t even need a coach to give me criticism because I have too much of it already. I think of it as having almost that edge in 2018, being known for having that play with the stiff arm, the run after whenever I would have a reception. I didn’t have as many of those. It makes me want to attack this offseason and next season that much harder.
”I think offensively it was a much different team. It forced players to take a hard look at where we are, our personnel, the ever-changing lineup because of injuries and so forth. They can all be excuses, but at the same time they all present specific things we have to overcome and adjust to. It took some adjusting.
”I think overall there was a stretch where we had a lot of success as a team. For me looking back and analyzing it all, I wish I would have done more.”
I doubt many would fault McDonald for having a down year statistically, but it just seemed as if the entire offense, including McDonald, was off last season with Mason Rudolph and/or Devlin Hodges at the helm.
“I think the timing is the biggest variable, the second week of the season Ben gets hurt,” said McDonald. “You go into the third week of the season and we don’t have the luxury of having training camp, offseason, or a bye week or anything like that. It’s a very quick transition. It affects everyone in the building. You just think of what it did to Randy’s (Fichtner) play-calling. He had a guy he was with for more than a decade. All of sudden you have to restructure and think of things like what are my quarterback’s strengths, what are the things he is comfortable with. How does he handle himself in certain game situations, in a two-minute offense? That trickles all the way down to players, especially with the key players at each position. You have to accelerate everything, and it makes it tough. At the same time, you are in a very high-pressured situation because you are trying to win a football game.”
McDonald is just hoping for another shot, with Ben Roethlisberger under center again, but he might not get it, at least not with the Steelers. The Steelers have a club option available with McDonald, and severing ties with him would save them some valuable salary cap space as Free Agency approaches. However, with the cupboard being extremely bare at the tight end position, the Steelers might not have much of an option but to keep McDonald and hope to see more 2018 Vanimal compared to the 2019 version.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for NFL Free Agency and the 2020 NFL Draft.