Pittsburgh Steeler’s shut finish Vance McDonald is retiring on his personal phrases.

PITTSBURGH – Vance McDonald felt last spring that his NFL career was coming to an end.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ urge to branch beyond the soccer field – one that has been bubbling for years – came to a head.

“It was just a matter of feeling that call, moving away from football,” said McDonald.

And so he retired after eight seasons on Friday to focus on both his charity foundation and the work ahead of the farm in western Pennsylvania. He plans to turn himself into a retreat for Christian leaders.

McDonald kept the decision to himself until Pittsburgh lost to Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs earlier this month. As a result, he approached close friend Ben Roethlisberger and the two hugged while fighting back tears.

“It wasn’t really about football,” said McDonald. “We just looked at each other and how grateful we are for the friendship.”

McDonald spent the first four years of his career in San Francisco before arriving in Pittsburgh on the eve of the 2017 season. He became a fan favorite for his physical play and intensity. Chasing Chicago’s Marcus Cooper to prevent a touchdown from a blocked field goal early in his freshman year in Pittsburgh, he planted Tampa Bay’s Chris Canty with a devastating, stiff arm on Monday night, 2018 on his way to a 75-yard score.

“I will honestly miss holding the football and facing someone as hard as possible because I appreciate that,” said McDonald with a laugh.

McDonald ended his career with 181 receptions for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns. His playing time cut short in 2020 as Pittsburgh turned into a more passable offensive. The previous election in the 2013 draft second round played off only 44% of offensive snapshots in Pittsburgh that season, compared to 69% in 2019 and 51% in 2018.

The Steelers had a $ 5.2 million club option for 2021 for McDonald, who only caught 15 passes for 99 yards in its final season. McDonald’s resignation likely stopped Pittsburgh’s Front Office from running it this spring, and McDonald’s had no interest in starting over elsewhere.

“I know the Steelers are going to change a lot in the future,” said McDonald, later adding, “I am very, very happy to be retiring a Steeler. I am very happy to do so on my own terms . ” ”

McDonald is Pittsburgh’s 2020 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, presented annually to a player who has made a significant positive impact on their community. In the spring, McDonald and Roethlisberger launched the Trucks of Hope campaign, which supplied over 1,000 families in western Pennsylvania with trucks with non-perishable food, PPE and cleaning products.

The program only deepened McDonald’s determination to move on to the next phase of his life. He and his wife Kendi founded the Hidden Meadows Retreat in Ligonier, Pennsylvania – about an hour east of Pittsburgh – to create a place where “faith-based leaders, nonprofit teams and others can find rest, refreshment, and renewal.”

McDonald spent some time on the COVID-19 reserve list this season after testing positive for the novel coronavirus shortly after beating Dallas on Nov. 8. He missed two games on record and his playing time fluctuated greatly upon his return.

McDonald said his battle with the virus only confirmed his decision that it was time.

“It created an even bigger fire under me, it created more passion in me to make (Hidden Meadow) work,” said McDonald.

McDonald gave no insight into whether Roethlisberger – who he sat next to in the locker room for the last three seasons of his career – will return for an 18th season in 2021, although he believes that Roethlisberger “can still play at a high level”.

Steeler’s trainer Mike Tomlin praised McDonald’s influence not only in the locker room, but also in town.

“He was a classmate on and off the field who led many of our community efforts while also being a voice for our social justice efforts and community work during the pandemic,” Tomlin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family all the best in his retirement and continued work as a pillar in the community.”

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