The Pittsburgh Steelers wasted little time in addressing their top three needs this offseason, signing a cornerback, a wide receiver, and then a linebacker within the first several days of the official start of free agency, handing out some nice-sized contracts by their standards along the way.
The one number we haven’t heard from yet is that of wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who will likely battle second-year James Washington for playing time as one of the three primary wide receivers on the field with the Steelers’ offense, though they now also frequently use four and even five wide receivers.
All of those wide receivers beginning in 2018 work under the tutelage of Darryl Drake, the long-time veteran wide receivers coach who was hired last season to replace Richard Mann upon his retirement. Drake helped the Steelers produce a pair of 100-plus-catch, 1200-plus-yard wide receivers in his first season, a feat that has only been accomplished a small handful of times in NFL history.
I’m not sure of Moncrief was aware of that, but he was impressed with Drake instantly, as he told Missi Matthews during a sit-down interview posted on the team’s website soon after he signed. The Steelers reporter asked him for his impressions of his new position coach, and he offered a glowing review.
“You can tell he’s a great coach. He’s been coaching for a long time. Just the way he talks. We clicked instantly”, he said. “You can tell he’s a head-on guy. He’ll get the best out of you. You can tell that early”.
Of the topics that the two covered in their brief meeting together, at the forefront was the wide receiver room, who they have, and how he fits into with. With Antonio Brown gone, JuJu Smith-Schuster sits at the top of the food chain and is rounded out by Washington, Eli Rogers, and Ryan Switzer, in addition to the four futures players under contract.
“Just talking about the receiving room. A lot of great guys, young guys that are hungry and want to play”, he said, “and it’s gonna keep me up to stay hungry to compete with those guys and have fun with those guys like JuJu by the way he celebrates in the end zone. Just keeping that energy on offense going. It’s gonna be fun. I know he’s gonna push me, and that’s what I need”.
Heading into his sixth season, Moncrief is the most veteran player in the room, though he is not the oldest. Rogers is several months older, having already turned 26, while the former is still 25 (his birthday is in early August, so will be 26 during the season).
While it’s good that he likes his new position coach, the important relationship is with Ben Roethlisberger, and he had better hope that the quarterback takes a liking to him. The best way to do that is to catch anything thrown in his area.