Trades are always surprising. Odds of one happening are inherently slim. But when the Pittsburgh Steelers traded for Vance McDonald 24 hours ago, it was hard to put on a shocked face. Unless you’re Jesse James, who told reporters he was surprised to see the trade go down.
“It was surprising,” James told reporters via Steelers.com. “You never really know when those kind of things are going to happen. Especially in a business like this. I really don’t know much about Vance but we’re going to welcome him.”
In yesterday’s press conference, Mike Tomlin pointed to a lack of consistency with the current group as the catalyst for the trade. James had struggled to make contested catches while Xavier Grimble – despite a good showing versus the Indianapolis Colts – hadn’t been enough of a vertical threat in the passing game.
“The guys hadn’t been consistently varsity enough for our comfort,” Tomlin said. “It’s as black and white as that. They’ve had some moments positively and have some moments negatively.”
While McDonald will have to earn his keep, that’s the Steelers’ philosophy, it’s hard to imagine him backing James up for too long. He’s about as good a blocker and a much better run-after-catch threat.
James, to his credit, tried to display a team-first attitude to the news.
“We’re excited to have him, welcome him,” James said. “Anything it takes to win a Super Bowl here, that’s what we want to do.”
Even as the #2 tight end, James will still have a role in the offense. Todd Haley likes to run 12 personnel and will now have the talent to do so. He’s still young and progressing, just not at the rate the team envisioned. He now goes from being one of the league’s bottom-third starters to one of the best “backups,” something that’s ultimately good for his career and the state of the Steelers’ offense.