Sometimes there are just some plays that come to epitomize a player. I don’t think I need to reel off a list of examples, but many of them go on to be given ‘names’, like ‘The Catch’, and things of that nature. While it may not have ever been given a formal name, former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald will always be remembered for his stiff arm of Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety and rag doll Chris Conte during the 2018 season.
Helping him to ignite a career year in 2018, McDonald posted his first and only 100-yard game in week two of that season in Tampa, catching four passes in the game for 112 yards. 75 of those yards came on a short pass that he turned into a long touchdown thanks to his ability to get past Conte with a stiff arm that left him planted to the ground and Pittsburgh’s sideline going wild.
“I no doubt know that the stiff arm is probably what I’m gonna be remembered forv”, he said while speaking to reporters yesterday in discussing his retirement. “In knowing that, I appreciate it for that. I appreciate it because of what it did for the entire Steelers fan base, and having just another awesome moment that a player wearing a Steelers uniform did”.
It was after that game that we heard about ‘the Vanimal’, the persona of sorts that McDonald has, the way that he conveys his ability to ‘flip the switch’, so to speak, in order to play with the intensity needed in such a physical game that is at odds with his usual personality, a soft-spoken, mild-mannered, thoughtful, and humble individual.
“For me personally, I’ll probably be one of those softy guys down the road”, he admitted. “I’ll remember and miss being in the huddle more than anything. Just moments when you look another man in the eyes and you know that you both have the same mission, the same goal of winning and success”.
Unfortunately, the Steelers didn’t do much winning while he was here, at least in the postseason, going 0-2. They did win 13 games in his first season in 2017, and then 12 this past year, but he didn’t play the game to rack up regular season victories.
The stiff arm was an iconic play, and certainly will be remembered for years to come, I think. Perhaps even longer than McDonald himself is remembered well as a member of the Steelers. But perhaps at this time it’s most fitting as symbolic of his ability to leave the game on his own terms.
— Steelers Depot 🎄 (@Steelersdepot) January 22, 2021