Numbers Crunch: The Jerricho Cotchery Effect

By Alex Kozora

It goes without saying the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has been underwhelming. Despite having top five players at three key skill positions, it’s a unit that ranks 23rd in points per game. There are a variety of issues that can be attributed. One focuses around the production out of the wide receivers. Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery have been replaced by Justin Brown and Lance Moore. The dropoff is noticeable.

I pulled together some research, compiling reception numbers from each team’s top two receivers compared to the rest of the unit. The data is listed in a sortable chart before. The first column shows receptions from the team’s top two receivers, followed by total receptions, and then the reception percentage from the top two wideouts.

To be clear, this study focuses solely on wide receivers. Not tight ends or receivers.

HOU 59 69 85.5
CHI 56 69 81.2
DEN 66 82 80.5
PIT 65 81 80.2
NE 55 69 79.7
GB 72 92 78.2
NO 47 61 77
BAL 50 66 75.8
DET 50 66 75.8
IND 77 102 75.5
NYG 51 68 75
TEN 42 56 75
BUF 47 63 74.6
SD 50 68 73.5
DAL 54 75 72
NYJ 40 56 71.4
CIN 44 62 71
CLE 42 62 67.7
KC 28 42 66.6
PHI 51 77 66.2
ATL 63 96 65.6
ARI 35 54 64.8
MIN 38 59 64.4
SF 38 59 64.4
TB 46 72 63.9
OAK 41 68 60.3
CAR 51 85 60
MIA 43 73 58.9
STL 34 61 55.7
WSH 53 102 51.9
JAX 48 95 50.5

To summarize the Steelers, Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton have 65 of the 81 receptions by Steelers’ receivers. From a percentage standpoint, that’s just over 80%, the fourth highest in the league. The Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears are ahead but Wes Welker missed time with a suspension and the Bears lost Marquess Wilson to a fractured clavicle. Had both not been absent, it’s likely those percentages would be lower and the Steelers ranked higher.

For full transparency, a quick search shows Pittsburgh’s percentage last year at 76.6%.

Still, this seems to point to an obvious lack of depth. Cleveland was a prime example of that. Take away Antonio Brown and the young, inconsistent Wheaton, and you’re not left with much. That’s how Ben Roethlisberger has his lowest completion percentage since 2008.

It’s even more alarming considering how much the Steelers use 11 personnel. Over 71% in 2014. You’d think the rest of the receivers would combine for more than 16 catches through six weeks. That’s an average of less than three catches per game.

A strong case can be made for Jerricho Cotchery being the biggest loss in free agency. Consider this. Through six weeks last year, Cotchery had 19 receptions. More than Brown, Moore, and Darrius Heyward-Bey combined.

Justin Brown is on pace for just 24 catches for the season. That’s not the production you want. Not even close.

Ben Roethlisberger is on pace for his most career completions and the receivers behind Brown and Wheaton are combining for a sliver of that.

Of course, Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell are viable weapons. Bell is a mini-receiver himself. But it’s clearly not enough. I don’t know who or know what the odds are of a change but the Steelers need more production from their #3 receiver.

It’s the way for this offense to take the next step.

A step it desperately needs.

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