The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How much are the Steelers planning on paying new wide receiver Donte Moncrief?
The Steelers are not the sort of team to go out and sign a starting wide receiver in free agency. Over the years they’ve shown that they are willing to give a young player a chance to start when the opportunity arises, from everyone including Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates and Mike Wallace.
Wheaton and Coates in particular are interesting examples to discuss because both of them did very little as rookies, but were allowed the chance to start the following year. Wheaton started after Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery left in free agency in 2014, with the team drafting Bryant that year.
Two years later, with Bryant suspended and Wheaton injured, Coates started. But the common denominator through these examples is Brown. It’s a lot easier to plug and play a number two when your number one is an all-world guy like Brown.
Now they’re replacing him, and as good as JuJu Smith-Schuster has been in his first two seasons—his numbers compare favorably to most any wide receiver through their first 30 games—there is a big difference between replacing one and the other.
The contact that the Steelers signed Moncrief to will be telling about how they view him. Last season, the former third-round pick played on a one-year deal in Jacksonville worth $9.6 million. That is a very hefty tag and I’m having a hard time imagining them paying even half that per year.
Prior to the two recent cornerback signings, the largest per-year average contract the team had given out to an outside free agent was $5 million. Joe Haden, a Pro Bowler, hit $9 million, and Steven Nelson just topped over $8 million against a $188.2 million cap to be a starter.
It’s less obvious that Moncrief will start over James Washington. But would Moncrief have accepted a comparatively cheap deal so ‘quickly’? He did have the tampering window to sort out his market.