The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that more than any other talks very openly about their intentions of building their team primarily through the draft, with free agency being only used as a supplementary tool to fill in the gaps, when available, where drafting or fate had failed them.
Perhaps that is why free agent signings might have a bit more difficulty being immediately accepted here in comparison to high draft picks. Even somebody like Steven Nelson is approached with skepticism after receiving the biggest contract the team has handed out to an outside player during the free agency period.
Meanwhile, much of the focus at the wide receiver position is being paid to the maturation and development of second-year James Washington and rookie Diontae Johnson, while free agent acquisition Donte Moncrief may very well be the one poised to contribute the most to the Steelers’ 2019 campaign. That’s certainly his intention.
And this isn’t his first time in a new environment, either. After spending his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, he departed from the Midwest to the southeast, where he spent last season peddling his wares for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He was asked about the process of adapting to a new environment. “Just coming in, being open, learning what they want you to learn”, he said. “Coming to work every day and competing, working hard, don’t be lazy, don’t talk back. Just come in and get trust. The more you get trust, that build friendships”.
At 25, Moncrief actually isn’t even the oldest wide receiver in the room. That would be the recently-signed Johnny Holton, but Eli Rogers and Tevin Jones are also 26 already, though Moncrief has more experience than all of them. And he plans to use that experience on the field to help the team, not just on the sidelines and in the classroom as a mentor.
He told the team’s website that his plan is to “work hard in front of the receivers and show the guys that I’m not just here to just talk, I’m here to play”. If he indeed proves to be able to come in and play, he will be the first wide receiver acquired via free agency to have a significant role in the offense (Ryan Switzer was a trade acquisition) since Jerricho Cotchery.
“It’s fun, and I feel like I’m doing a good job”, he added. Moncrief has been running with the first-team offense for at least some, if not all of the time so far during OTAs. He also talked a lot about his building a relationship and a rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which is obviously another key part of the puzzle of getting the chance to use his experience as much on the field as on the sideline as a guide to the younger players who would contribute ahead of him.