Donte Moncrief is the Pittsburgh Steelers’, and Ben Roethlisberger’s, newest wide receiver. After spending his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, he signed for one year with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018 before inking a two-year contract today officially to join the black and gold.
The signing was prompted by the forced trade of Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders as part of what will surely be a multi-pronged strategy to replace his production. Brown caught 104 passes for 1297 yards and 15 touchdowns last season in 15 games, so there is a lot that needs replacing.
One of the less heralded qualities Brown had, and one of the roles he had in the Steelers offense, was as a vertical threat as the X wide receiver. That’s something many expect Moncrief to do in the offense, and earlier today he acknowledged that it had been a big part of his game in the past—but not the entire story.
“I play pretty much all the positions, but I’ll come in and do whatever it takes. X, Z, F, whatever they want me to put me at, I’ll come out and make plays”, he said about his potential role with the Steelers going forward.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 14, 2019
Later he was asked specifically about what type of role he would have, with the reporter emphasizing the team’s need for a deep threat. “In Indianapolis I ran a lot of deep balls, for sure”, he said. “They moved me around a lot. They wanted to make sure I could run all the routes”.
He added that “it was the same thing” in Jacksonville last season, where he averaged over 16 yards per reception on passes thrown by Blake Bortles (as opposed to Cody Kessler) “Most of it though was ‘go’s, and then a lot of shallows and things like that. I pretty much can do all the things they’ll ask me to do, and whatever they want me to do I’m willing to try, willing to learn it and perfect my craft at it”.
Moncrief’s 4.40 40-yard dash time certainly qualifies him as the fastest wide receiver on the Steelers’ current roster, provided that Darrius Heyward-Bey is not re-signed. And historically, the deep ball has been a key part of his game.
According to Pro Football Reference, he has been targeted on 101 ‘deep’ passes over the course of his career. He has caught 33 of them for 1038 yards and nine touchdowns. He has caught six passes of 40 yards or more in his career, including five of 50 or more, four of 60 or more, and two of 79 or more.
According to Pro Football Focus, he caught only five of 21 deep targets last season, with three incompletions being drops. He was credited with only three drops on deep targets in his first four seasons with the Colts on 54 deep targets, however, catching 17 deep balls for 606 yards and seven touchdowns.