2020 Player Exit Meetings – TE Vance McDonald

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks a slight improvement from the past two seasons, during which they did not even qualify for the playoffs altogether. They have now done four seasons without securing a victory beyond regular season play.

Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.

They did manage to go 12-4 during the regular season, and secured their first AFC North title since 2017, posting a new franchise record by opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, but of course it all fell apart after that. Their only victory after that required a 17-point comeback.

While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2020 season.

Player: Vance McDonald

Position: TE

Experience: 8 Years

Obviously, you all know by now that tight end Vance McDonald, who was under contract for the 2021 season, announced his retirement earlier this offseason. Not only did he announce that he was retiring, he filed the paperwork, it’s already been processed, and his cap hit is off the books, so it’s a thoroughly done deal.

But he was still a significant component of the Steelers’ roster last season, so there’s no way we’re not still going to cover it year. An eight-year veteran, the 2020 season was his fourth in Pittsburgh since he was acquired via trade in 2017, and it was also his least productive.

That wasn’t exactly by coincidence. McDonald consciously veered into a different role after the Steelers signed Eric Ebron in free agency to become the receiving tight end. So the guy who caught 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 put on weight and worked on his blocking instead.

As a receiver, he finished the year with just 15 receptions for 99 yards, also marking the first time since 2014 that he went a year without scoring a touchdown. But I’m not sure if he was the primary target on even a single play all year. He was just a release valve.

As stated, his responsibility shifted more than ever to blocking, and to his credit, he did that better than he had the last couple of seasons. Of course, the blocking for the run game as a whole was bad for the vast majority of the 2020 season, and McDonald isn’t without fault even there, but he was certainly not one of the ‘problems’.

Now the problem is replacing him, because the only other tight ends have minimal experience, headed by Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader. It feels likely that they will be drafting a tight end fairly early for the first time in about a decade and a half, but seeing is believing for a team that hasn’t used anything higher than a fifth-round pick on the position in the draft since 2007.

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