49ers trade Vance McDonald to Steelers

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 19: San Francisco 49ers Tight End Vance McDonald (89) prepares to block during an NFL preseason game between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers on August 19, 2017 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)
Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

The Pittsburgh Steelers have acquired veteran tight end Vance McDonald and a fifth-round NFL Draft pick from the San Francisco 49ers. In return, the 49ers have received a fourth-round NFL Draft choice.

McDonald, who played his collegiate football at Rice University, was originally selected by San Francisco in the second round (55th pick overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was used only sparingly during his rookie campaign, playing in 15 regular-season games and making four starts while catching eight passes for 119 yards. The following year, McDonald’s role was even smaller, as he registered two receptions for 30 yards in eight games before going on injured reserve with a back injury in December.

His responsibilities in the 49ers’ offense finally increased in 2015-16, with the 27-year-old snaring 30 balls for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He played in 14 games and started 11 of them that season. Last year, McDonald recorded 24 catches for 391 yards and four scores.

The Steelers have been scrambling to find a reliable tight end ever since two-time Pro Bowler Heath Miller retired at the conclusion of the 2015-16 campaign. While McDonald is yet to put up big numbers, he could end up seeing some open space on the field in an offense that includes Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates in the aerial attack, not to mention Le’Veon Bell in the ground game.

Pittsburgh has gone 2-1 over its first three preseason games. It will head on the road to take on the Carolina Panthers in its exhibition finale on Thursday evening.

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