The Pittsburgh Steelers will open their 2017 regular season on the road Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and it will be interesting to see how much and in what way new tight end Vance McDonald is used in that contest.
McDonald, who the Steelers acquired last week in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, joined the team in enough time to play 14 offensive snaps in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. He wasn’t targeted in that game, however, as he was mostly used as a blocker.
During his weekly meeting with the Pittsburgh media on Wednesday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked to give a progress report on McDonald, who was originally drafted in the second-round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the 49ers out of Rice.
“Really good stuff,” Roethlisberger said of his new tight end. “He’s learning. [He’s] got some good guys to learn from. Jesse [James] knows this offense really well and does some great things. The same thing with X [Xavier Grimble]. So, we’re going to keep pushing him. We’ve got to be careful so we don’t overload him, but we’re excited to see what he can do on the field.”
While Roethlisberger did say Wednesday that McDonald seems to picking up the offense well in a short period of time, he said Tuesday during his weekly interview on 93.7 The Fan that he still wishes he had more time to work with his new tight end ahead of the regular season opener against the Browns.
“I wish we could have had one more week of preseason or training camp just to really get him on the same page with me and the rest of the guys,” Roethlisberger said of McDonald. “But he’s a quick study. I know he spent about six or so hours on our days [off] this weekend with our tight ends coach James Daniel and going over stuff and learning stuff because the tight end position really is an extension of the quarterback on the field. They’re helping get personnel right and calls and they’re just, really, especially having Heath [Miller] for so long and Matt Spaeth and Jesse James really picked up on it, it’s just like I said, being that extension of me out there. And Vance is learning quick.”
Roethlisberger also said he thinks he knows what kind of weapon that McDonald can potentiality be in the Steelers offense in 2017.
“I mean, he’s a great athlete stretching the field – run after catch,” Roethlisberger said. “Really excited about some of the things I’ve seen on highlight tapes of him. So, I think he’ll learn from Jesse and between the three tight ends: Jesse, Vance and X, I think they’ll be a great combo punch.”