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McDonald: 'This is where the trophy belongs'

Posted Sep 4, 2017

New tight end enthusiastically joins Steelers.

Vance McDonald wasn’t expecting his final preseason week to include a trade, but nor was he complaining about his eventual destination.

“It was a complete shock,” McDonald said of the deal completed last week that brought him from the 49ers to the Steelers, along with a fifth-round draft pick, in exchange for a fourth-round selection. “You just have to embrace it. It’s the NFL, that’s the business of the NFL.

“I couldn’t be happier where I landed, that’s for sure.”

The fifth-year tight end and former second-round pick out of Rice had been on the Steelers’ radar for some time in the wake of the management and coaching changes made after last season in San Francisco.

“He’s been available off and on, really since the draft last year,” Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert explained. “It just intensified and we were able to strike a deal with them.”

McDonald, 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds, joined his new team as quickly as humanly possible and enthusiastically endorsing his interpretation of Steelers’ history.

“There’s definitely only a few legitimate franchises in the NFL, just in terms of championships,” McDonald said late last Thursday night, after the Steelers’ preseason finale at Carolina. “I mean, the Steelers, that’s where it is. This is where the trophy belongs.

“Someone mentioned to me the fact that there’s only been three head coaches since the beginning of the Steelers’ founding. That’s a statistic that no other team can say. That’s just consistency and that’s the culture that they built, a championship culture.”

It’s actually three head coaches since 1969, but who’s counting?

McDonald’s miscalculation or misrepresentation may have had something to do with the ground he’d covered since playing for the 49ers in a night game against the Vikings on Aug. 27.

“We flew from Minnesota to San Francisco, landed about 4 a.m. (on Aug. 28), and then I was in Pittsburgh Tuesday about 1 a.m.,” McDonald recounted in the locker room at Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte after playing 15 snaps against the Panthers. “I have one suitcase, everything’s back home in San Francisco right now.

“I have a rock star wife, she’s handling everything.”

Steelers players had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off following the Carolina game.

McDonald said it was his intention to remain at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, rather than return home to San Francisco, in order to “get a head start on Week One,” of the regular season.

McDonald caught 64 passes on 118 targets for 866 yards and seven touchdowns in four seasons with the 49ers. He had 24 catches for 391 yards and four receiving TDs last season and a combined 54 receptions for 717 yards and seven scores in 2015 and 2016.

Colbert assessed McDonald and cornerback Joe Haden, who was signed by the Steelers last week after being cut by Cleveland, as “quality guys, quality starters.”

McDonald said he’s ready to “get things rolling” and contribute whenever and however he’s asked.

“We’re after one goal and that’s to win a championship,” he maintained. “We’ll do whatever it takes.”