Vance McDonald knows that he still has a lot to prove in his career. All the potential in the world won’t mean anything if it doesn’t ever culminate in results. While the tight end has demonstrated immense talent at moments over the course of his career, he hasn’t put together a complete season.
The reasons for that no coming last season were many, his first with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team traded for him just before the final preseason game, so he didn’t have much of an opportunity to learn their system before he was on the field.
The fact that he was still in the process of learning how the Steelers do things is one of the major reasons that it took him a while to see the field for more than a handful of snaps a game during the early portions of the season. And he doesn’t blame the coaches.
“As coaches, they have it on the line. You don’t necessarily want to put a guy out there that hasn’t done it and been able to do it in practices because games matter. And we only get 16 opportunities”, he told reporters during OTAs yesterday. “So just being able to come out here [is big], and out here [in OTAs] you can just try things. It gives the coaches confidence”.
Of course all the time lost due to injuries didn’t help matters. McDonald suffered through four or five separate injury issues over the course of the season, beginning, beginning with a back injury that kept him out of one of his first games with his new team.
“Yeah, missing time last year was a big issue”, he conceded. But he’s ready to move on from that, and from being the new guy finding his way. “It takes some resiliency and some support from other people, that’s for sure”, he said about coming in and trying to learn a new offense with new teammates on the fly.
“It was tough”, but he added that “it’s in the past now. Of course there’re always things you look back on and wish that you could’ve done differently”. But what he has control over is the future, and how he is going to be a part of the Steelers’ future, in 2018 and beyond.
While McDonald was able to be more and more effective as the season wore on, he acknowledged that there is no substitute for having the time to learn the nuances of both your offensive system and your coaches and players that you work with.
He said that “it’s awesome” now to have the opportunity to take his time and really develop with his teammates and break down the offense and his role in it, which will now be designed with him in mind. “It’s something that you can’t just fast-forward that and press the skip button”. It takes being on the field and doing the work.