49ers

The 49ers tight end that most benefits from Vance McDonald trade is...

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AP

The 49ers tight end that most benefits from Vance McDonald trade is...

Tight end Vance McDonald, whose name first came up in trade talks during the draft, has a new home.

The 49ers dealt McDonald and a fifth-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday morning in exchange for a fourth-round pick, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area.

"We would like to thank Vance for his contributions to this organization on the field and in the community over the last four seasons," 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. "Although I have only known Vance for a short time, I quickly learned that he and his wife, Kendi, have been tremendous representatives for the team in the community and their service to others is quite commendable. We wish the McDonald family all the best as they move on to a new opportunity in Pittsburgh."

McDonald came to the 49ers as a second-round draft pick in 2013. The 49ers paid McDonald a $7 million signing bonus in December to lock him up for five more seasons.

But the new 49ers regime preferred the other options, including veteran pickup Logan Paulsen, a blocking specialist, and rookie George Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick.

The player who figures to benefit most from McDonald’s trade is veteran Garrett Celek, a sixth-year player who originally signed with the 49ers in 2012 as an undrafted rookie from Michigan State.

Celek has 56 catches for 678 yards and six touchdowns in 55 games. McDonald recorded 64 receptions for 866 yards and seven touchdowns in 48 games with 30 starts.

The 49ers could look to retain undrafted rookie tight end Cole Hikutini on the practice squad, if the team waives him and he goes unclaimed by the other 31 teams. Blake Bell, who enters his third season after being a fourth-round pick in 2015, faces a stiff challenge to make the team.

All NFL teams must trim their rosters from the 90-player maximum to the regular-season-season limit of 53 players by the Saturday deadline. The 49ers’ final exhibition game is Thursday night against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi’s Stadium.

Inactives: 49ers third-round pick yet to make his debut

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USATSI

Inactives: 49ers third-round pick yet to make his debut

As the 49ers take on the Rams on Thursday Night Football, the team will be without five defenders and two from offense. 

Ahkello Witherspoon, who the team drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, will have to wait to make his debut another week. 

Below is the full list of inactives from Insider Matt Maiocco. 

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

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AP

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

SANTA CLARA – After spending the past three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, inside linebacker Brock Coyle knows how it is supposed to look.

And he believes the 49ers have gotten off to a good start under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who has installed a scheme based on the Seahawks’ blueprint.

“What’s really cool about this defense is if you look at Seattle, Jacksonville and Atlanta, they all have their different traits, their different personalties and their characteristics,” Coyle said. “And we’re building our own identity on defense.

“You see guys flying around and growing. And this was just our second regular-season game together in this defense.”

Saleh uses such terms as “all gas no brakes” and “extreme violence” to describe the kind of style he wants to see from his defense. In the 49ers’ 12-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers seemed to compete physically with the Seahawks for the first time in a long time.

On the first possession of the game, 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt set the tone when he separated Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham from the ball with a big hit. Graham was never a factor in the game, catching just one pass for 1 yard.

“If you’re looking from a progress standpoint, I don’t look at so much production as much as what it looks like on tape and the violence, the speed, attacking the ball, that’s what I’m excited about,” Saleh said.

The 49ers will have another chance on a quick turnaround to establish that identity on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster will miss his second game in a row with a high-ankle sprain. Ray-Ray Armstrong started against Seattle, alongside NaVorro Bowman, but Saleh said Coyle also fits into his plan.

Coyle entered the game at Seattle in the first half in place of Armstrong, and Saleh hinted he could use both players more interchangeably until Foster returns.

“He deserves it,” Saleh said of Coyle. “He works his tail off and he works hard and we wanted to make sure that we got him some more reps. And to be honest with you, I feel he should probably get a little bit more.

“He’s a great communicator and knows everybody’s job on the football field. He’s very, very strong at the point of attack and he is pretty athletic and fast.”

The 49ers' physicality is showing up on the early downs, as the defense leads the league in allowing just 2.7 yards per play on first downs. But the 49ers have to get a lot better on the down that matters most. The 49ers rank 23rd on third downs, allowing the opposition through two games to convert 46.9 percent of their opportunities.

“Third down is a major emphasis -- every week it is," Saleh said. "We faced 12 more plays than we needed to that first drive just because a lack of execution on that first third-down and 9. We were in great position to get off the field.

"We’ve got to tackle and that takes all 11 running to the ball because a lot of times that first guy does miss, but we can help ourselves a lot by being better on third down for sure.”