I think that for most fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the name of tight end Vance McDonald leaves something of a bad taste in the back of the throat. The supposed receiving threat has officially been targeted four times without coming up with a reception. He has dropped one pass, had another that he should have caught, and had a third intercepted.
Those fans should be reminded that McDonald is not a one-dimensional player at the position, and in fact has been by far the better blocker at tight end between himself and Jesse James. The numbers in the run game when he is on the field are better. Even the numbers in the passing game are better when he is on the field for some reason.
But as much has his drops—he had a history of them in San Francisco—might bother you, they don’t come close to tormenting you the way they have McDonald himself in the not too distant past. He has learned to deal with that adversity over time however, as he told Jeremy Fowler.
The former second-round pick characterized himself historically as somebody who is emotional and quick to anger, and he would dwell on a drop. “You’re angry all the time”, he said. “You’re thinking about it for the rest of the game throughout the night”.
It would get so bad that it would affect his home life, angering his wife, or not even talking to relatives because he was so mad over his own struggles on the field. But having a child has taught him patience and perspective.
“That’s something I’ve dealt with”, he said of his explosive temperament. “It helped me when it came to football, taking anger and being aggressive in terms of how you play the game, for sure. Emotionally, not so much”.
McDonald talked about how important it is to get a drop out of your head as quickly as possible. “If you focus on the play before, you’re going to miss the opportunity to pull yourself out of it”, he said. “If the next play they come to you, and you’re still thinking about it and, boom, another one happens, it can spiral out of control”. And Ben Roethlisberger does have a tendency to go right back to a player.
He knows that the receptions will come in time. last Sunday, things got away from them and he hardly even played after the first 20 minutes after they trailed, almost exclusively using Jesse James in a string of 50-some-odd consecutive snaps out of 11 personnel.
He has learned to appreciate things beyond the stats, however. “Production’s fun”, he said, “don’t get me wrong”. But “when your team is winning, that’s what makes the rest of the week great”. And he didn’t experience much winning with the 49ers.