Pittsburgh Steelers Reportedly Sign WR Shaun McDonald

Todd FlemingAnalyst IMay 1, 2009

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 18:  Shaun McDonald #84 of the Detroit Lions makes a catch against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at Ford Field on November 18, 2007 in Detroit, Michigan. The Giants defeated the Lions 16-10.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Steelers reportedly signed former St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions wide receiver Shaun McDonald to a contract today, adding depth at wide receiver,  a position that remained perilously thin even after the draft. 

McDonald entered the league in 2003 and has averaged 11.1 yards per catch.  His best season was two years ago with the Detroit Lions, when as the No. 3 receiver, he had 79 catches for 943 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers trailed off last year to 35 catches for 355 yards.   
McDonald will likely win the battle to step in as the slot receiver, although he is not likely viewed as someone who can replace's Nate Washington's ability to stretch the field since he is more of a veteran possession receiver than a blazer.     

If these reports are true, this could be a great signing. Going into the draft, the Steelers had real question marks at wide receiver in terms of their depth at that position. While they did add Ole Miss' Mike Wallace in the third round, they still lacked proven depth behind Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. 

Newly drafted Wallace's immediate impact will likely come on special teams, giving him time to develop over the next couple seasons.

It is unlikely that Ward, with his play style and aging body, will make it through the season without some injury issues along the way. McDonald provides some insurance that the Steelers will have a proven receiver who can step on the field in the event of an injury to one of the top two receivers.

A caveat to McDonald's big season in Detroit is that he was playing in Mike Martz's circus-style offense. But, even at that, that fact that he put up nearly 1,000 yards on 79 catches demonstrates he was an integral part of that offense and was effective playing out of the slot.

Even with his numbers dropping last year, he still finished the season as the Lions' second leading receiver. 

The trio of McDonald, Limas Sweed, and Mike Wallace will make for an interesting training camp battle in terms of filling out the depth chart at the position.

Sweed, with his speed and size, will likely fill Washington's role of stretching the field while serving as a constant big play threat with McDonald serving as the savvy vet who can get open and move the chains out of the slot position.    

With the signing of McDonald, it appears likely that two players will change rosters between the league's top and bottom teams from last year, with linebacker Larry Foote indicating he wants to sign with the Lions after he is released.