Steelers News

McDonald: Getting Locker Next To Big Ben Has Been ‘A Great Move For Us’

They say that real estate is all about location, location, location. Of course the quality of the house itself matters, but the environment in which the house is built often weighs more than anything else, which effects property value.

Apparently, the closer you can get your locker room to that of your starting quarterback’s, the more valuable you become as well, because Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald was pretty happy to be able to move right next door in the locker room to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last offseason.

McDonald, who was acquired via trade in late August 2017, spent that year just trying to get to know the offense and his teammates, including his quarterback, doing so on the fly while simultaneously battling injuries.

Having that offseason, it was such a game-changer”, he told the team’s website in a recent sit-down interview. “I felt more connected, and at the end of the day, that’s just what we all want, we just want to feel that connection. So it was just so real to have that experience this year as compared to last”.

And a big part of the connection for any pass catcher is the other half of the catch process, which would be the passer.

“The locker move, to be next to [Roethlisberger is big], not even that we’re both big talkers”, he said. “I mean, Ben says more words to a handful of guys on the team than he says to me, but at the same time, it’s just having that physical closeness. Again, you can’t expedite it, you can’t push the fast forward button, you can’t make it into something that it isn’t, but it’s been a great move for us”.

In his first season with the team in 2017, McDonald was limited to just 10 games, but he caught only 14 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown. That was obviously not the stat line the team was looking for when they traded for him.

A year later, he put up 50 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns, not his ceiling but much more representative of what he is capable of doing when he is fully healthy and fully engaged in the offense and on the same page with Roethlisberger.

There are times during games that Roethlisberger really seems to love going to McDonald, but I think that relationship can grow even further in 2019. And there would be room for it if Antonio Brown is dealt.

I could easily see McDonald being featured as the team’s number two target behind JuJu Smith-Schuster in terms of ball distribution if that happens. He has the talent to put up a 1000-yard season if he were used in that fashion. Maybe he can force fewer interceptions looking for Brown and find more targets for his tight end.

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