The Steelers 2019 season was plagued with injuries, the most impactful being the loss of Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2. His absence shut down the offense, which included tight end Vance McDonald. McDonald was seen as a player ready to take another step forward after a career year in 2018, but he didn’t build on his 50 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns, instead, he had just 38 receptions for 273 yards and three scores.
Much of his decline can be attributed to the lack of quality quarterback play behind Roethlisberger, as Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges didn’t come close to getting the passing game going. That reality isn’t lost on the Steelers, who plan on picking up McDonald’s 2020 option, which will pay him $5.5 million and give the team a cap hit of $7.1 million, per Dale Lolley of DK Pittsburgh Sports.
The Steelers are tight in cap space and didn’t think they’d be able to find much tight end value through free agency according to Lolley. McDonald has also had fewer injuries over the last two seasons and may have turned the corner in that department. With Roethlisberger back this season, there’s a chance McDonald does end up becoming a good fantasy play, just a year later than expected.