Have a bit more confidence in yourself, young man.
Over the past week, tight end Vance McDonald has found himself uncertain about his future. He told Chris Adamski that “everything is pretty uncertain right now” regarding his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is unclear whether or not he had already held an end-of-season exit meeting at the time that he made this comment.
The Steelers acquired McDonald, a fifth-year tight end who was a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, via a trade just under two weeks before the regular season was set to kick off. He only participated in the final preseason game, doing so after just a day of practice, before playing his first meaningful snaps.
The 49ers signed McDonald to a new long-term contract in the offseason prior to trading him in August. They previously attempted to move him during the draft when they found that they had an abundance of talent at the position, especially after drafting George Kittle.
That contract is an unorthodox one in comparison to the ones that the Steelers traditionally are comfortable handing out, but its structure is such that it makes the tight end an easy cut after each season without forwarding dead money into the future.
McDonald’s base salary in 2018 will climb from 2.1 million to 3.7 million, and he is surely wondering if he has done enough to justify his remaining here. A decision will come before April, as he is due a $750,000 roster bonus at that time.
In his first season with the Steelers, he caught only 14 passes during the regular season, though he produced 188 yards out of it with a touchdown. He was limited to parts of only 10 games due to a number of injuries. But he had a big postseason debut, adding another 10 receptions for 112 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars and their talented defense.
I personally believe strongly that the Steelers will find a way to retain him, even while they seek other measures to cut down their cap expenditures this offseason. I think that they view him as a player who can be a long-term above-the-line starter at the position. If only he can stay on the field.
And I think the cost in 2018 is worth the risk, and that they will accept that risk. But in his shoes, I can understand the hesitance. He has never held a full-time starting job in spite of his pedigree, in part due to injuries. He has never had more than 30 receptions, 391 yards, or four touchdowns in a single season over five years of playing, and has missed 19 games in that span.
While he is unsure if he will be back, he knows that he wants to be. “I wouldn’t blink an eye”, he said about returning. “It’s so fun here. It was an exciting year. We expected to play next week. It stinks we don’t get to play next week. It’s kind of a bad dream”.