On Tuesday, Mike Tomlin praised TE Vance McDonald for his unselfish play. McDonald backed up those sentiments speaking to reporters Thursday morning. He said his goal is to put team first, do the dirty work, and let Eric Ebron make plays in the passing game.
“I consider myself just like a soldier and I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” he said via Steelers.com. “I told [Eric Ebron] point blank, like, ‘dude, I would rather block all game than catch one ball.’ And that’s the absolute truth.”
McDonald has been a rock-solid blocker through the Steelers’ first three games, bouncing back after a difficult 2019 where he struggled as a blocker and receiver, appearing to play through an injury and gut out the season. He didn’t have much of a choice. Tight end depth was weak after Xavier Grimble was cut, Zach Gentry being a rookie and Nick Vannett traded for mid-season. The rest of the offense was falling apart, ravaged by injuries, so McDonald hung in there to play 14 games.
Pittsburgh signed Eric Ebron as their high-prized free agent in the offense, hoping to provide a jolt to the passing game and red zone offense. For some, that would feel like a slight. McDonald embraced the addition and is making it his mission to reach Ebron everything he knows.
“I absolutely love investing my time into Eric. Just from the background and the four years I’ve been here of experiencing the scheme and to just tell him all the nuances I’ve learned over the years. To just offer it to him to see how he wants to take it, whether he wants to use it and apply it or not. But I live through Eric’s success in the passing game. And if that’s all that it ever is, then I’m as happy as I’ll ever be.”
Ebron had his first impact game against the Houston Texans, finding the end zone for the first time. McDonald saw his biggest involvement in the passing game too, catching three passes, but it’s clear he’s taken a backseat as a receiver. Not that he’s mad about that.
“I find satisfaction and joy and happiness in carrying out the responsibility that’s laid in front of me that week. Obviously with the acquisition of Eric, I’m not an idiot. Eric is a better pass catching tight end and threat than I am. And so I recognize that. I don’t bury my head in the sand because of that fact. Like I’m not going to walk around with some false amount of pride and ego. And so with all that, I love watching Eric succeed and I will bend over backwards to make sure that that happens every single week.”