The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Donte Moncrief will have a career year in 2019 with Ben Roethlisberger and Randy Fichtner’s offense.
Explanation: Donte Moncrief, a former third-round draft pick, has spent most of his first five seasons in the NFL playing with, in all honesty, sub-par play at the quarterback position, with his greatest success coming early on playing with Andrew Luck while both were fully healthy. He has the opportunity to crack the starting lineup in Pittsburgh, where they had two receivers go for 100-plus catches for 1200-plus yards in 2018.
In all honesty, it’s not the highest bar to clear in the world. For his career, in 41 starts and 69 games, Moncrief has compiled a total of 200 receptions for 2543 yards and 21 touchdowns. The best numbers in each category that he has put up in a single season are 64, 733, and seven, with his highest yards per reception figure being 15. Most of those occurred in different years.
If he is able to work his way to the top alongside JuJu Smith-Schuster, he will be primed to have a career year without a doubt. That starts with the fact that the Steelers cleared roughly 175 targets off the books with Antonio Brown being gone. Moncrief has never been targeted more than 105 times in a season, and his reception percentage varies significantly based on the quality of quarterback.
All of this hinges upon him entering the starting lineup, however, and that’s far from a guarantee. James Washington didn’t have the rookie season he would have liked to have had, but he knows the growing pains he was going through and how to correct them. He’s certainly capable of flourishing in a big role in 2019.
There’s also the very real possibility that they add a prominent wide receiver in the draft. A receiver-by-committee approach with three or more players rotating behind Smith-Schuster would obviously cut into his potential to put up numbers. His best chance of having sustained playing time is to prove to be a deep threat.