Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: TE Vance McDonald
Stock Value: Down
Vance McDonald had anything but the breakout season that many were expecting from him in 2019. While that wasn’t entirely his fault—the entire passing game naturally suffered mightily without Ben Roethlisberger for the vast majority of the season—there are certainly things within his own performance about which we can speak.
But we can still start with the numbers. The seven-year veteran was coming off of a career year in 2018 after finishing the season with 50 receptions on 72 targets (69.4 percent catch rate, by far the highest of his career) for 610 yards and four touchdowns. All numbers at least tied career highs, if not blowing prior highs out of the water.
Relatively speaking, 2019 was still the second-best season of his career, statistically. While it may not seem like it, he had nearly the same catch rate on fewer targets, catching 38 passes on 55 targets which put him at a meager 273 yards and three touchdowns.
In his seven seasons, he has only twice had more than three touchdowns. He never had more than 30 receptions prior to the 2018 season. But his 273 receiving yards translates to a laughable 7.2 yards per reception. That’s on the low end even for a running back. He averages 11.7 yards per reception throughout his career, even with the awful year under his belt. He came into the season averaging 13 yards per reception.
Again, some of this was on the quarterbacks. He got a ton of short passes this year. But his yards after contact was way down. Pro Football Reference credited him with 10 broken tackles in 2018 and just one in 2019.
More than that, his blocking this season was easily the most pedestrian we have seen from him since arriving in Pittsburgh. Even though he saw more snaps this year than ever before (per game), his impact was much less compared to a year ago. All of it is enough to put him in the conversation to be a salary cap casualty even though they have no other good answers at tight end behind him, nor the money to sign one.