McDonald: Bell’s Absence ‘Rode’ With Steelers

Steelers TE critical of Le’Veon Bell’s decision

Josh Rowntree
December 31, 2018 - 3:16 pm
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (89) in action during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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After the Steelers spent the entire season deflecting most talk of distractions due to the Le’Veon Bell saga, Pittsburgh tight end Vance McDonald admitted Monday that it may have been an issue. 

“You’ve got a lot of personalities and a lot of lives that are needing, I guess, to be satisfied,” McDonald said during the team’s final media availability of the season. “You think of Le’Veon. That was a big thing that rode with us for a long time this season.”

“It’s just ‘how do you go about [distractions].’ I’m not saying there’s a right answer, but, at the same time, there’s things you have to handle. You don’t, obviously, wish for things like that to happen. But, at the end of the day, you want to have your roster and you want your roster to want to be here.”

McDonald does feel that, despite Bell’s absence looming over the team, Pittsburgh was able to focus.

“It’s hard to speak personally about other people and what it did for them or didn’t do for them,” he said. “I’m not going to say that it was invisible. I’m not going to say that it didn’t cause some sort of response, some sort of emotional response. 

“I think that we handled it well. There was a couple of jokingly displays of him not being here that makes everything kind of lighthearted and not so serious.”

However, not having an all-Pro caliber running back, when the expectation is that you will, and being seemingly strung along by said player for a dozen weeks of the regular season, certainly seemed to rub some in the locker room the wrong way. McDonald, it appears, is one of those players.

“It is a big concern when you have just one guy that — call it ‘selfish,’ call it ‘pursuing his individuals freedoms’ or wanting to change the process or whatever it is — but, at the end of the day, I don’t know, I signed my contract and I’m going to live it out regardless of what it looks like,” he added. “That’s just my decision."

“So you hope that you can have that kind of decision from other guys at the same time. But who is going to say that he’s got to do this or that. It’s up to him to make that decision for himself. But I think that we handled it well, honestly, as a team.”

Part of the reason the Steelers handled it well was the emergence of James Conner, who took the reigns of the top running back spot and thrived in Pittsburgh’s dynamic offense. But it’s fair to wonder how much better it could have been with another star as an option for the offense.

“You don’t want to play the ‘what if’ game, but you want to have your guys here,” McDonald said. “And that’s key, that’s huge. At the same time, too, I think it would have made a big difference.”

Hear all of what Vance McDonald had to say below. 

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