Film Room: McDonald An Asset In Run Game

Since coming aboard, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald has caught a lot of flak for what he hasn’t been catching—the football. Through three games played, he has been targeted twice on two passes that could have been catches, and he did not come down with either of them.

Now, the first one I did not determine to be a drop, even though it is a pass that could have—or should have—been caught, because he ultimately lost the ball because of a hit from a defender that contacted the arm that was attempting to control the ball. The other one, however, as a straight drop. He did have a reception that was negated by a penalty.

The miscues as a receiver, however, should not overshadow the quality work that he has been putting in as a run blocker, so that is why I wanted to take the time to highlight some of that effort from Sunday’s game versus the Ravens. As I’ve noted previously, the Steelers averaged six yards per carry on the 21 runs on which he was in the game.

The first play I want to take a look at came pretty early on, midway through the first quarter, and is one that I already looked at previously in Hubbard’s film session from earlier today, but McDonald deserves singling out as well.

He has here drawn the Heath Miller role on the staple counter trey, pulling on this occasion from the left side of the field to the right, in doing so able to drive C.J. Mosley out of the hole, only late in the play able to reestablish his presence nine yards down the field.

On a later play toward the end of the first half, he did a great job getting out in front of a zone run right for James Conner inside the red zone. In fact, he did so well that he drove his target far upfield and out of the play on what proved to be a seven-yard gain on second and nine.

Later, he once again displayed the ability to both find work and execute a block out in space with mobility and accuracy, on this occasion hooking onto Kamalei Correa, sealing him to the inside of the field and allowing Bell behind him to find room for 16 yards.

In the third quarter, the Steelers sent McDonald in motion from right to left prior to the play, but at the snap he pulled to the right, and again helped Bell to carve out a nice gain of six yards on first down. Please note that the wrong player is incidentally highlighted in the gif below. He is the pulling player from left to right.

There will at some point hopefully come a time in the season where McDonald is integrated into the offense and making plays as a receiver, but for now, his run-blocking is proving to be an asset.

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