No plan to increase snaps for McDonald ☕


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Vance McDonald takes a moment during practice Wednesday at Rooney Sports Complex. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Sometimes things just don't work out the way things are planned.

For the Steelers, last year it was the inside linebacker position not being quite up to snuff. That was fixed in the offseason after the failed Jon Bostic/Morgan Burnett experiment.

This year's problem area for the team just might be tight end. And the Steelers might not wait until 2020 -- nor should they -- for a fix.

When Jesse James hit the open market and signed a four-year, $25-million contract with the Lions, it left a void at the No. 2 position on the roster behind starter Vance McDonald. The hope for the Steelers was that Xavier Grimble would, in his fourth season, rise to the occasion to become a competent second tight end.

It's an important spot for a number of reasons. First, McDonald has never played a full 16-game season in his six-year career. Then there's the fact the Steelers don't plan on using McDonald extensively, at least in part, because of that issue.

McDonald played a career-high 564 snaps in 2018, splitting time almost equally with James. Even though James is gone, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner doesn't see him logging too many more snaps than that.

"He still won't," Fichtner said of McDonald's playing time increasing substantially this season.

"He's never going to play the full game. That's never going to happen."

If the last few years show anything, it's that the Steelers will have 1,300 to 1,400 plays needed from their tight ends this season. And that's just on offense. It doesn't include any contributions on special teams.

James played 562 snaps last season, which were the lowest number since his rookie season in 2015. James played 906 snaps in 2017, and 855 in 2016.

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