ESPN The San Francisco 49ers have traded tight end Vance McDonald and a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a fourth-round pick, the teams announced Tuesday. McDonald, who signed a three-year, $19.7 million contract extension with the Niners in December, had career highs in receiving yards (391), yards per reception (16.29) and touchdowns (four) in 11 games last season before suffering a shoulder injury. The acquisition reinforces the Steelers’ need for playmaking at tight end since Heath Miller retired in 2016. Last year’s experiment with Ladarius Green didn’t pan out. Jesse James and Xavier Grimble, despite showing flashes, were inconsistent catching passes in training camp.
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is absolutely loaded, expect for at tight end, which has been a black hole since Heath Miller retired. Free agent acquisition Ladarius Green was a total bust, and while Jessie James filled in adequately in 2016, he is a limited player who has struggled to catch the ball this preseason. The Steelers needed a playmaking tight end, and the 49ers had playmaking tight end Vance McDonald on the trade block, so a trade between the two teams made a lot of sense. The 49ers just signed McDonald to a contract extension in December, but he was not a good fit in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense and was not part of the new regime’s future plans, so a change of scenery for McDonald and the chance to play for a contender is a great opportunity.