A lot of changes might be on the verge for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After ending their season in disappointing fashion, head coach Mike Tomlin said that changes were coming. Their offense sputtered down the stretch, citing the lack of a run game. Tight end Vance McDonald wasn’t a big part of the Steeler’s offense this year despite playing in 14 games.
McDonald’s physical and bruising play style is what made him a favorite in Pittsburgh. He embodied the grit and toughness Pittsburgh is known for. The Steelers will save themselves some money but lose McDonald’s services because of his recent decision.
Vance McDonald announces his retirement
Telling the news through the team, Vance McDonald has announced his retirement from the NFL. The Rice Collge alumni played eight seasons in the league. Four with the San Francisco 49ers and four with the Steelers. McDonald caught 181 passes for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns during his career per ESPN. His career-defining play was a 75-yard touchdown pass where he gave a mean stiff-arm to Chris Conte.
“My family and I are so grateful for everything NFL football has provided us in our life…It’s always been our dream and mission to leverage the platform given us through the NFL to help serve and uplift others along the way…I am proud to retire a Steeler,” McDonald said in a statement per ESPN.
McDonald knew that this season was going to be his last for about six months. His post-NFL plans are to open Hidden Meadows Farm Retreat to host faith-based or non-profit retreats for organizations. He’s been active in the Pittsburgh community with his charitable efforts, being a 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee. His work in the community has earned the respect of his teammates and his coach.
“He was a class act on and off the field, leading many of our efforts in the community while also being a voice for our social justice efforts and the community work during the pandemic. I wish he and his family nothing but the best in his retirement and his continued work to be a pillar in the community,” said head coach Mike Tomlin.
The Steelers benefit from McDonald’s retirement
The news of McDonald’s retirement might come as a surprise for many. It was a surprise for Ben Roethlisberger, as he and McDonald shared a moment in the locker room after their wild-card loss to the Cleveland Browns.
“We embraced in a very manly way, so we just hugged in the middle of the locker room. He was crying. … I had some tears on my face, man,” said McDonald.
Even though the Steelers are losing one of their workhorse players, they will be saving money. McDonald’s retirement saves Pittsburgh $5.2 million in cap space. There was a team option for his contract this upcoming season. It didn’t seem likely the Steelers were going to pick up his option. Eric Ebron is still under contract, and they have a few more tight ends on deals.
The money they are saving because of Vance McDonald’s retirement is a huge benefit for Pittsburgh. Their cap situation entering the offseason is pretty tight. The $5.2 million they are saving could be used toward getting one of their younger players on a long term contract.
Pittsburgh’s financial plans this upcoming offseason
When it comes to finances, the Steelers will have to stick with their plan to a tee. According to Spotrac, they will be roughly $28 million over the cap. That means they will need to adjust some contracts or cut some people. It’s unknown if Pittsburgh would cut Ben Roethlisberger, but they need to rework his contract somehow.
The cap hit that Big Ben’s contract brings to the team next season is enormous. If he is on the roster, he will cost the Steelers $41.2 million against the cap. That is by far the highest of any player going into next season. At age 39, Roethlisberger will need to bend a little bit because the Steelers have high priority players they need to lock up.
T.J. Watt is one of the players Pittsburgh is looking to lock up this season. Watt is one of the elite edge players in the game. Given his star power and production, his next contract is going to be huge. Bud Dupree is another name that could be due for a big deal. Juju Smith-Schuster is another player the Steelers have to consider resigning. That is only a couple of the impact players Mike Tomlin, and the Steeler’s front office must think about.
The Steelers suffer a loss and a win with Vance McDonald’s retirement. They lose a glue player who was physical and gritty but saves some money toward the cap. For a cap-strapped team, Pittsburgh will take the financial gains. However, losing a guy like McDonald could impact the team in more ways than one.