Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Vance McDonald
Stock Value: Up
Evaluation Type: Major, Long-Term
Reason: Comfort, Quality of Reps, Health(?)
I’m surprised that I haven’t already covered Vance McDonald in this series, considering how potentially significant a role he could be playing for the Steelers this season. On the high side of what he can bring to the table, he has the ability to become a Pro Bowl tight end, and it’s really not out of the question for that to happen.
But of course, there are always the question marks, as is evident in the reasons that I gave for his evaluation above, and the big one will always be health. He suffered four or five separate injuries last season alone during his first year in Pittsburgh, yet he flashed his potential at the end of the season with a big game for over 100 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had quality coverage linebackers.
McDonald only played in 10 games during the regular season in 2017, and that includes three or four games in which he missed large chunks due to injury. He was limited to just 14 receptions, but he produced 188 yards from them, including explosive plays, averaging 13.4 yards per reception. He had one touchdown.
He should be able to quadruple or quintuple those numbers in 2018 if everything actually works out as it should, which is something that has never happened for him before in his career. But I’m not one to go into the year assuming the worst.
No matter how you look at it, he’s in a better situation now than he was last season, having just been traded to the Steelers ahead of the final preseason game. He admitted that he was still getting on the same page rhythmically with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the postseason bye week.
A full offseason’s worth of work should do him a lot of good, including psychologically. Being comfortable in your environment has a bigger impact on your performance, not just in football, but in life in general.