Health has been the biggest hurdle for Vance McDonald. But when he’s been able to overcome that, it’s obvious to see why the Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to trade for him. Speaking with Bob Labriola on yesterday’s Coordinator’s Corner, Todd Haley praised what McDonald’s been able to do now that he’s back in the lineup.
“He’s a very explosive guy on the line of scrimmage,” Haley said. “Played with violence as a pass receiver. Very good run after catch. He’s a guy who gets his pads low, he’s a fast, explosive player overall.”
Last Monday against Houston was arguably his best game and likely would’ve been better if not for game circumstance that let the team run out the clock in the second half. McDonald got involved early, catching all four of his passes and 52 yards in the first quarter as the Steelers got a quick jump on the Texans.
Though Haley says that wasn’t necessarily by design, he was happy to see McDonald make that kind of impact.
“We had some quick passes early out of an empty set with regular people. Anytime you do that, you know you probably have linebackers on tight ends and backs. He was able to win and make a couple of early plays for us.”
With McDonald healthy, he split reps with Jesse James, something that will continue provided good health remains going forward. McDonald brings that unique element the team searched for in Ladarius Green, the ability to make plays down the field or take a short pass and do something after the catch. Ten after McDonald’s 13 catches have gone for a first down whereas fewer than have of James have (20 of 41).
“He’ll be a big piece for us offensively going forward,” Haley said of McDonald.
Most importantly, rather than contrasting the two, is realizing both guys have made improvements from the beginning of the year until now. For James, he’s been as durable as anyone, and according to Haley, battled through plenty of injury. After a flat-out awful camp, partially why the team went out and nabbed McDonald, James has gotten better as a blocker, on contested catches, and even offered a little something after the catch. And McDonald finally seems healthy, which is all he needs in order to succeed.
It’ll be another weapon for a Steelers’ offense eager to get Antonio Brown back for the playoff push. And another outlet for Ben Roethlisberger when teams inevitably double #84.