The offseason is over. Football is back. The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College and training camp is underway. As we are every year, we will be right there providing live feedback and updates, and will be supplementing ourselves throughout the day, every day.
The Steelers are coming off a frustrating season to say the least, posting a 13-3 record with a first-round bye only to be dumped in the Divisional Round by a team that beat them twice, even though they hadn’t even been to the playoffs in a decade.
They’ve added the ingredients that they think they need to fix what ails them, adding new players and coaches, while getting rid of others. Now is when they start mixing up those ingredients and trying to create something powerful.
We still have a lot of questions about this team, and we’ll be monitoring the practices and preseason games looking for answers. As we always do.
Question: Are we in for injury déjà vu with Vance McDonald?
Here’s a breaking new bulletin: tight end Vance McDonald left yesterday’s practice with a foot injury. The sixth-year veteran has had a career marked by mild but nagging injuries, which have greatly limited his ability to reach his potential on the field.
The Steelers traded for him less than a year ago with the hopes that they could unlock his potential and he could flourish as their number one player at the position as a dynamic all-around tight end capable of blocking and making plays with the football.
While he has the talent to do that, the question has become whether or not he has the durability. He suffered something like four different injuries over the course of the 2017 regular season that limited him to 10 games and cut several other games short.
Leaving a training camp practice with an injury is not necessarily something that should set off alarm bells, but it does for players who are chronically injured, and an injury to a foot could be particularly problematic because it’s difficult to let it heal while remaining active.
Whether or not McDonald makes a rapid return from this current injury—he could be on the field of the team’s next practice, for all we know—it is a cold reminder of the fact that he has had a very difficult time staying on the field over the course of his career.
The good thing about his contract is that it’s structured in a way that essentially allows the team to take things on a year-to-year basis. It makes too much sense to give him this year after he was only brought in shortly before the season.
But if he has another injury-plagued season in 2018, then the team will likely start thinking about his status for next year. His cap hit will climb to just north of $5 million a year from now and if he doesn’t play like a $5 million tight end by then, no matter what the reason, it would be hard to justify the expense.