The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will get 16 games out of Vance McDonald this season.
Explanation: Up to this point in his career, tight end Vance McDonald has never played 15 games in a season, missing one during his rookie season. He is, however, coming off of his healthiest season since then, playing in 15 games after missing the opener.
Outside of a freak foot injury that he suffered in training camp, McDonald has been great on the health front lately. He just played in 15 consecutive games, so the suggestion that he wouldn’t be able to last through 16 seems to be pretty baseless.
Of course he can, and frankly, he’s due for a healthy year. He’s also more comfortable and set within his situation than he ever has before, which also has its subtle ways of helping to keep a player healthy. As you get older, and play more, you learn how to better keep yourself out of harm’s way, or to limit the risk of injury when in the line of fire. McDonald leveled out some big blows of his own in 2018 while making sure to give a lot more than he got.
That tells me that he’s turned a corner, I think. It shouldn’t any longer be taken as a given that he’s going to get injured. He might not be a Heath Miller-level ironman performer, but I would expect that it would have to be a random injury that can happen to any player at any time to sideline him now.
But I don’t know that there will be many buyers for what I was just selling above, given that he missed 20 games over the course of his first five seasons, an average of four per year. In his first year with the Steelers, he suffered four or five distinct injuries that resulted in him missing time in a game, or entire games.
Until proven otherwise, his 15-game run of health in 2018 is the anomaly rather than the norm. Whether it’s something about him physically or just an amazing stroke of bad luck—though not nearly as bad as Tyler Eifert—the odds favor him suffering an injury that will make him miss time this year and every year.