The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2019 season much as they did the 2018 season, by allowing their playoff fate slip out of their grasp. Slow starts and slow finishes permeated both campaigns, with strong runs in between. But while the results were the same missing the playoffs, the means were quite different.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we. But that they still managed to go 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger, and with the general quality of play that they faced along the way, I suppose things could have been worse.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2018 season.
Player: Vance McDonald
Position: Tight End
Experience: 7 Years
This was not a good season for Vance McDonald, to be certain, especially in light of the expectations that were set up for him prior to the start of the year. He finished with just 38 receptions for a measly 273 yards and three touchdowns. His 7.2 yards per catch was absolutely horrendous and frankly hard to believe, especially considering that he averaged 13 yards per catch over the course of his first six seasons. He averaged 12.5 yards per reception in his two years with the Steelers prior to 2019.
Now, it goes without saying that Ben Roethlisberger’s injury played a major role in the shortcomings of the Steelers’ passing and receiving numbers across the board. That affected everybody in some negative fashion, some more significantly than others—perhaps the running backs were hurt less, and maybe even saw more opportunities.
But there is no justification for not being able to average even eight yards per reception. While the percentage of air yards on his receptions this year shrunk from 4.5 to 2.7, his yards after the catch plummeted even more, from a full 7.7 in 2018 down to 4.5 last year. He is only credited with breaking one tackle, whereas he caused 10 tacklers to miss the year prior.
The tight end position isn’t just about catching passes though—and it can’t be understated how negatively affected he was by playing with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as opposed to Roethlisberger. He also has to block, and the 2019 season was certainly McDonald’s low point of his three seasons in Pittsburgh as a blocker.
It has even reached the point at which there are those who are wondering if the Steelers might consider making him a salary cap cut, even though the most significant tight end of note that they have under contract for 2020 is Zach Gentry. They will of course have to address the tight end position high in the draft regardless of what happens with McDonald.