Carter’s Classroom: Need to feed McDonald ☕


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Vance McDonald at OTAs - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

If there's a player that needs to be utilized more on the Steelers' offense above anyone else, it's Vance McDonald. After his best statistical season in 2018, McDonald looks to make his eighth NFL season a statement year.

Dale Lolley wrote about McDonald's Pro Bowl chances last week, and I'm here to go over some of the reasons that support Ben Roethlisberger feeding him as many targets as it takes to get there.

McDonald caught 50 passes on 72 targets for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Everyone remembers the bulldozing of safety Chris Conte for a 75-yard touchdown against the Buccaneers. That play was great because it showed the league what would happen if he was left in single coverage against an average defensive back.

But McDonald had advantages throughout 2018 than just his brute force. He mixed great agility to get open in space against savvy coverage men with his ability to win combat catches.

Watch how he broke down the Patriots' Patrick Chung, a role player in their secondary Bill Belichick has long relied upon. McDonald gets single coverage against Chung and after Jaylen Samuels clears out his man to the inside, McDonald comes off the second break in his zig route to be wide open for an easy touchdown:

But McDonald wins in more than just situations where he's taking advantage of single coverage against less-than-elite defenders. And without Antonio Brown to attract defensive stars, he will have to do that a lot more often. But he did that in tough spots when tasked in 2018.

A play I find more impressive than the long touchdown against the Buccaneers was his touchdown against the Jaguars in the fourth quarter comeback. McDonald ran his route in front of Tashaun Gipson and found open space, but kept working with Roethlisberger to get behind the lurking Telvin Smith.

McDonald not only adjusts to where Roethlisberger needs him, but he high-points the ball even with Smith challenging him:

These are the plays they'll need McDonald to win when teams work to take away JuJu Smith-Schuster.

By all indications, McDonald isn't shying away from the prospect of putting the team on his back in these situations.

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