Randy Fichtner is thrilled the patience shown in Vance McDonald has finally paid off. But even he’s surprised by certain aspects of McDonald’s game. Speaking with Bob Labriola for this week’s Coordinator’s Corner, Fichtner said he didn’t expect McDonald to play so physically after the catch like he has.
“He’s obviously really good running with it,” Fichtner said. “I don’t think I probably expected that to be as pronounced as it is. But he’s done a really nice job turning short plays into long plays and playing aggressive.”
McDonald has shown that unique power many times this season. The one most remembered is his stiff-arm to Chris Conte en route to his 75 yard touchdown, tossing the safety away with ease before racing into the end zone.
— Yahoo Sports NFL (@YahooSportsNFL) September 26, 2018
But it’s not the only time McDonald has flashed that ability. He ran through several defenders against the Cincinnati Bengals, turning short completions into long gains.
According to our missed tackles report, which also now tracks broken tackles, McDonald has eight of them this season. That’s tied for third on the team and only three behind Antonio Brown.
Fichtner said he’s also happy to see McDonald take good care of his body, citing the fearless nature of his game as one reason for his persistent injuries.
“And I think he’s done a nice job with his body. Taking care of it. Working through nicks and knacks. Because he plays so aggressive and he’s so fearless, that he puts his body in harms way. He’s going to take some of those beatings and hits. And they add up over time. He’s done a nice job of making himself available and playing more plays each and every game.”
McDonald missed almost all of training camp and the entire preseason with a right foot injury. After missing the opener versus Cleveland, he’s worked his way into the offense ever since and the offense has been significantly better off because of it.
He’s now just 11 catches and 118 yards away from setting career highs in both categories. Provided he remains healthy, he’ll crush both of those numbers. And in doing so, give this offense a similar outcome. Although it’s still early and the number likely to come down, the Steelers are averaging 28.5 points per game, which would easily be the most they’ve ever had in the Mike Tomlin era.