2020 Offseason Questions: What Are Expectations For Vance McDonald This Season?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: What are the expectations for Vance McDonald this year?

Vance McDonald has been in Pittsburgh for three years now. He’s put together one strong season during that time, in 2018, when he caught 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns. The expectation was that he would take off last season, but that didn’t really happen.

That was, in large part, because of Ben Roethlisberger’s injury. He was also injured a week after that against the 49ers reaching for an overthrown ball from Mason Rudolph that resulted in him taking a hard hit. His blocking also suffered.

Now, coming off a down year, having taken a slight pay cut, and with the Steelers bringing in Eric Ebron, what exactly is the plan for McDonald? How will he be used in relation to Ebron, and with their four-headed wide receiver attack? And with the tackle-eligible role, which they utilized on about a fifth of their snaps last season, more than any other team?

The Steelers have never had two tight ends who were receiving threats at the same time, so this is uncharted territory in Pittsburgh. Will Randy Fichtner actually take advantage of this? Mike Tomlin has talked a bit about the potential for this duo to create defensive mismatches, so there is that, but it comes down to what happens on the field.

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