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: Vance McDonald
Stock Value: Down
I’m still going back specifically to the regular season finale when I’m talking about these stock evaluations. I’m not yet covering season-long assessments. But one player who will certainly be getting an overall assessment of ‘stock down’ for the year would be tight end Vance McDonald, even if some of the reasons for that are not his fault.
But the thing is, he hasn’t played nearly as well as he did last season, even in his somewhat rarer instances in 2019, and that’s a concern. There are some circumstances in which it doesn’t matter who’s throwing you the ball if you’re simply not making the play, or not doing much with the opportunity once you do.
That is McDonald’s season in a nutshell, and largely the finale as well, during which he caught just two passes for 19 yards, with a long of 12 yards. And while that one play was fine enough, it was pretty much the highlight for him.
One thing that has been largely absent from his game this season has been his ability to fight for yards after the catch through contact. This is not a definitive indication of that, but his absolutely anemic 7.2 yards per reception on the year absolutely speaks to the fact that he was not picking up big chunks of yardage with the ball in his hands very frequently.
But especially with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined this year, what the tight ends do without the ball in their hands was going to be as important as it was in years, and McDonald didn’t deliver on that front in the finale. That included him being responsible for a sack allowed in pass protection, and the Steelers don’t leave their tight ends in to pass protect very often. In fact, he had just three reps of pass protection in that game, according to Pro Football Focus.
And it should go without saying that the blocking overall on the day in the run game wasn’t terribly effective, though his performance in this column was at least passable. Still, it wasn’t what the Steelers signed up for when they traded for him. He fell a long way off from pre-season expectations.