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2019 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Try To Quickly Establish Donte Moncrief Sunday?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their training camp sessions since 1966. While the vast majority of the legwork of building the 90-man roster is done, there is always some fine tinkering to do. Now it’s time to figure out who is worthy of a roster spot, and what their role will be.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they’re bound to have new starters.

How will those position groups sort themselves out? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in practice? Who is sitting out due to injury?

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: Will the Steelers try to quickly establish Donte Moncrief on Sunday?

Things have not been going well so far through the first two of 32 games for which veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief is under contract. On 11 targets, he has three receptions for seven yards, and of the  nine that have been on-target, he has dropped, depending upon whom you ask, anywhere between two and six of them. I have him down for four, for the record, but at least one of the others—the one in the end zone in the opener—at least could have, if not should have, been caught.

After dropping at least three passes that game, Moncrief did start on Sunday, playing all three of the snaps on the team’s opening drive. However, he would only see two snaps over the course of the following two drives, both on third down. He would play on first down on drive four, but not the remaining four snaps, before seeing 11 consecutive.

After two snaps off to begin the second half, he would come back on the field for one more play, the first third-down opportunity of Mason Rudolph’s career. The second-year quarterback’s pass was high, but eminently catchable. The sixth-year receiver dropped it—not simply failing to catch it, but popping it into the air to be intercepted.

He did not play for the remainder of the game, 24 snaps. In all, he logged fewer than 20. Ryan Switzer and Johnny Holton combined to play roughly the same number of snaps.

Was this a matter of sitting Moncrief for his own good so that he could get his head right this week and get a fresh start? Or are the young receivers—James Washington and Diontae Johnson—already making permanent in-roads into his playing time, to quickly fade into a backup without a substantial opportunity to rebound?

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