The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
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 have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? 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 Donte Moncrief be back on the field on Sunday following a benching on Sunday?
Head Coach Mike Tomlin made the decision for Sunday’s game to not only demote veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief, but to deactivate him as well. He started the first two games of the season after signing in March as a free agent, but managed just three receptions for seven yards on 11 targets, dropping about half of the others.
He was targeted just once in Week Two, and he dropped that pass, hitting it up into the air, where it was intercepted. He didn’t play for the rest of the game and then did not even dress on Sunday. However, Ryan Switzer also did not play.
The Steelers almost entirely relied upon the young trio of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson at wide receiver, with Johnny Holton getting mixed in here and there. For a team that ran five-wide 15 times in the season opener, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be using only four of them.
Tomlin has benched players before in the hopes that it will send them a message and coax them into bouncing back. Moncrief is just three games into a two-year, $9 million contract, and while he doesn’t have to see his second-year salary, it would be stunning if they just have him rot on the bench for the rest of the year after just two games. He’ll be working his way back. The question is, will it be a one-game thing? It’s not a matter of the inactive list, either. They have enough people to sit ahead of him. He didn’t dress because Tomlin didn’t want him to.