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Tomlin Talks Recent Health Of McDonald; Addition Of Vannett

Will Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald play Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals?

It’s not looking like he will despite head coach Mike Tomlin saying earlier in the week that he was optimistic that McDonald would play some Monday night against the Bengals. McDonald, who failed to practice any this past week, was listed as doubtful for the Monday night game against the Bengals and wasn’t upgraded on Saturday. In short, it will be surprising to see Tomlin play McDonald against the Bengals.

While McDonald’s injury this week was listed as being to his shoulder, Tomlin revealed on his weekly television show that the Steelers tight end was also injured some during the team’s Week 2 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

“For the second week in a row Vance McDonald sustained an in-game injury that caused him to miss either the remainder of the game or portions of the game,” Tomlin said when asked to comment on the reasons for the team decision to trade for tight end Nick Vannett this past week.

Strangely enough, McDonald played 51 of 56 possible offensive snaps in Week 2 against the Seahawks. However, ahead of the team’s Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers McDonald was listed on the injury report with a back injury that caused him to be limited in practice that Wednesday before practicing fully on that Thursday and Friday. Assuming McDonald ultimately sits out Monday night, it will then be interesting to see how quickly he’s able to resume playing moving forward.

While McDonald has been a fine tight end for the Steelers when healthy, he’s managed to miss seven games already since the team acquired him from the 49ers ahead of the 2017 regular season. Monday night figures be his eighth missed game. McDonald has per-game roster bonuses tied to his contract, so he loses money every time he’s forced to sit out injured. He’s scheduled to earn a base salary in 2020 of $5.5 million and that option year needs to be decided upon by a few weeks into March. In short, McDonald could possibly now be in his final season with the Steelers due to his injury history.

While Vannett not currently under contract past the 2019 season, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers trading for him and then letting him ride off into the free agency sunset next March. Assuming Vannett remains healthy and is productive in the Steelers final 13 regular season games of 2019, the team will likely extend before the start of the 2020 league year.

“He’s got a well-rounded game,” Tomlin recently told Bob Labriola of steelers.com. “He’s above-the-line in both the running game and in the passing game. A lot of tight ends in the NFL today are either receivers or blockers. He’s one of those dual guys.”

The Steelers were reportedly after Vannett for quite a while before finally acquiring him via a trade this past week. They’ll get a good look at their latest acquisition Monday night against the Bengals as Vannett is expected to log an extensive amount of offensive snaps during the game.

“He’s one of those dual guys,” Tomlin said. “We evaluated him when he came out of Ohio State, we liked that aspect of his game, and so it’s going to provide a lot of versatility for us in terms of the ways we can utilize him.”

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