If you’re out in search of a more immediate bright spot right now, look no further than tight end Vance McDonald, who in contract to last week’s game against the New England Patriots, was involved early and often for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense this afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks.
The seventh-year man was the target of the first play of the game from Ben Roethlisberger. His seven targets on the afternoon were second on the Steelers, only one behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he led with seven receptions, for a perfect afternoon.
While those seven receptions only turned into 38 yards of offense, that spanned a pair of touchdowns of lengths of eight and three yards, so you’ll make the concession of distance in that case. Both scores came off the arm of Mason Rudolph, who is responsible for all of the Steelers’ whopping two touchdowns so far through eight quarters of play in 2019.
McDonald, who was pretty much unused in the passing game until the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter last week in New England, now has nine receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns on the season. His career-high in touchdowns, which he tied last season, is four, so he is certainly already gunning for a new personal best in that department.
Again, we don’t have snap counts yet, but it appears that the Steelers are using him as much as possible. Last week, the only snaps for which he was not on the field, for the plays in which there was a tight end on the field, were the two out of a pony backfield, at which time Xavier Grimble played his only snaps of the game.
The team did run 18 snaps in the opener out of either the 00 or 10 personnel, but initial appearances don’t indicate that they used those packages nearly as frequently today. In fact, his first touchdown of eight yards came out of 01 personnel, in which he initially lined up out of the backfield for an inside screen pass that was long in developing.
Last season, his first in which he was relatively healthy—he did miss the opener after suffering a foot injury that basically wiped out training camp and the preseason—Pittsburgh still heavily used Jesse James, to the point in which the two tight ends played roughly even snaps.
This year, however, it looks as though, as long as he stays healthy, he should comfortably see a snap count in the 800 range. If they actually start to use him as they have been talking about all summer, he could be in for a big year. But not many will care if that doesn’t lead to victories.