Going into the game against Jacksonville, the Steelers were down one tight end what with Vance McDonald being on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and then during the game they lost one of the two tight ends on the active roster when Zach Gentry sustained what Coach Mike Tomlin has termed "a significant knee injury."
That left the team with only Eric Ebron to man the tight end position during most of the 27-3 victory over the Jaguars, but Tomlin said at his weekly news conference on Monday that McDonald was cleared to return to the team and is scheduled to practice on Tuesday when the Steelers begin to prepare for their Thursday night game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.
"Vance is scheduled to work (Tuesday)," said Tomlin. "He was cleared to come back. We're going to let the quality of his (practice) participation and how he responds to that work be our guide in terms of determining his availability."
The Steelers currently are carrying two tight ends on their practice squad: Kevin Rader and Charles Jones. But because the Steelers typically dress just two tight ends for games, if McDonald is deemed ready for the Ravens Tomlin may decide to keep only two tight ends on the 53-man roster because he still would have Rader and Jones available for practice.
Rader, who attended Pine-Richland High School north of Pittsburgh and then Youngstown State, entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie with Green Bay. He spent parts of two training camps with the Steelers before being waived each time. In 42 career college games, Rader caught 41 passes for 601 yards and four touchdowns.
Jones (6-4, 255) was added to the Steelers practice squad a short time ago. He entered the NFL with Jacksonville in 2019 as an undrafted free agent from Tulane, and he spent most his rookie season on the Jaguars practice squad. At Tulane, Jones caught 61 passes for 460 yards and eight touchdowns.
As for the rest of his weekly injury update, Tomlin said, "Some other guys who went down in-game (in Jacksonville) and were able to come back, or were in a position to come back whether or not we chose to bring them back were Joe Haden and JuJu Smith-Schuster. We'll let their availability during the course of the week be our guide in terms of their game availability. We don't have a lot of physical work ahead of us this week."