McDonald out — again — with shoulder injury


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Vance McDonald. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Vance McDonald's always got some kind of asterisk, right?

Anytime his name arises in any kind of forecast, it's invariably with the if-he-stays-healthy caveat. And there's merit to that, considering his first NFL seasons saw him miss 26 total games to six different types of injuries.

Well, we're about to see if there'll be another.

McDonald left with a shoulder injury in the Steelers' 24-20 loss to the 49ers on this Sunday at Levi's Stadium, and he didn't return. Mike Tomlin didn't offer specifics afterward, but McDonald was perhaps tellingly the only one he singled out as having an injury, referring to anyone else as having "just bumps and bruises associated with play."

McDonald wasn't in the locker room afterward during the media access period.

It's unclear precisely when or how he was hurt, but this was his final target from Mason Rudolph on the day, with 13:30 left in the second quarter:

The pass is badly overthrown -- Rudolph had several of those -- and McDonald was hit hard and high by the 49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon, the cornerback on the play. McDonald stayed in for third down of that series, then didn't return.

Xavier Grimble took McDonald's spot, and rookie fifth-rounder Zach Gentry joined him in two-tight-end formations for his first NFL action. It's immensely unlikely the Steelers will stick with just those two if McDonald is deemed unavailable for any period. Grimble remains terribly unreliable -- another drop in this one -- and Gentry's considered a project.

The team is off Monday, so don't expect further word until the next media availability Tuesday or Tomlin's press conference Wednesday.

Also on the injury front: Joe Haden (shoulder) and Cam Heyward (stomach) both left the game briefly at different points, but both returned.

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