I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: Vance McDonald will have a very productive and relatively healthy 2018 season.
This is, after all, why they traded for him. They believe he can be a very productive player at the tight end position and they also don’t see in his injury history anything that necessarily predicts future recurrences. Even last season the majority of his injuries have been freak anomalies, including once getting rolled up on blocking on a kick return.
If healthy, and with a full offseason under his belt, I firmly believe that McDonald can be a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. Working with Ben Roethlisberger, he should be able to put up numbers at least similar to some of Heath Miller’s best statistics, if not even better with an offense more focused on throwing the ball.
And while I wouldn’t go out on a limb to say he will actually make the Pro Bowl, there is nothing actually stopping him from living up to his potential this year. He will have the best opportunity in front of him that he has ever had in his entire career to find success, and he will be motivated to seize it.
But you can’t simply ignore the fact that McDonald has never played a 16-game season and has missed at least five games in three of his five years in the NFL. He missed six games in his first year with the Steelers in 2017.
Whether or not his body will even hold up for a full season or close to it is a big enough question mark in and of itself. McDonald will also be competing for targets with arguably the best wide receiver group in the NFL, as well as the best pass-catching running back in the NFL. He may not even see the requisite targets to be particularly productive. He may put up better numbers than Jesse James, but can he even hit 600 receiving yards? He’s never even had 400.