McDonald likely will take on an expanded role in the passing game after the Steelers parted ways with wide receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Jesse James, ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler reports. The Steelers will add more bodies behind McDonald and Xavier Grimble at tight end, but they won't necessarily sign or draft a direct replacement for James, who accounted for 39 targets and 562 snaps (50.4 percent) in 2018. There's a real chance McDonald steps into an every-down role, with potential to emerge as the No. 2 receiving option in an offense that no longer needs to allocate 10-to-12 targets per game for Brown. The 28-year-old tight end has an impressive track record of efficiency with his receiving opportunities, but he's struggled with injuries and hasn't been particularly consistent on blocking assignments.
McDonald caught three of his six targets for 39 yards during Sunday's 16-13 win over Cincinnati. A healthy McDonald played 15 games in a season for the first time since his rookie year in 2013 and set personal bests for receptions (50), targets (72) and yards (610) while matching his season high of four touchdowns. He has established himself as Pittsburgh's top tight end, with Jesse James and Xavier Grimble combining for just 36 catches (on 47 targets). McDonald is the only rostered tight end whose contract isn't up -- he is signed for three more years -- and should remain atop the depth chart next season.
McDonald caught one of his four targets for 49 yards in Sunday's 31-28 loss to the Saints. McDonald wasn't efficient, but still managed to put together a passable performance thanks to a long third down reception to close the first quarter. He was also targeted in the end zone late in the third quarter, but was unable to haul in the score. McDonald continues to hold a fringe role in the Steelers' offense, commanding four or more targets in four of his past five games. Entering Week 17 with four touchdowns, he'll set a new single-season best touchdown mark if he can find the end zone against the Bengals.
McDonald caught two of three targets for 13 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's 17-10 win over New England. Ben Roethlisberger hit McDonald on Pittsburgh's opening drive for the score, and almost connected for another but the big tight end was unable to get both feet down. Although he saw his fewest targets in a game since Week 4 McDonald is still ahead of Jesse James on the depth chart. McDonald now has four touchdowns matching his career-high in 2016. Week 16 presents a difficult challenge as New Orleans has allowed tight ends to score just three touchdowns this season and allows the second fewest yards per game to tight ends (63).
McDonald caught four of seven targets for 28 yards during Sunday's 33-30 loss to the Chargers. Although he appeared to be fully recovered from the hip injury he sustained in Week 13 against Denver, McDonald had his third consecutive game with under 30 yards receiving. He'll look to bounce back against Oakland -- which allows the most fantasy points to tight ends per game (12) -- in Week 14.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/09||@New England Patriots||18||7.37|
|3||09/22||@San Francisco 49ers||4||4.75|
|6||10/14||@Los Angeles Chargers||10||5.67|
|10||11/10||Los Angeles Rams||23||7.89|
|16||12/22||@New York Jets||6||4.88|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||47||29||396||3||19||13.66||57|