There were a lot of problems for the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight in a lot of different areas of the game. One of them was the difficulty of the skill position players to hold on to the football, whether they simply dropped the pass or were unable to secure the ball through contact.
That pretty much summed up the Steelers debut for sixth-year veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who finished the game with three receptions for just seven yards on a whopping 10 targets. Without having had the benefit to review the game yet, there were at least three passes thrown his way that were on-target that he either outright dropped or allowed a defender to punch out of his grasp. The worst of those occurred in the end zone.
In spite of the awful first game in the black and gold, his quarterback has got his back. When Ben Roethlisberger was talked that Moncrief said after the game he considered the result and his performance a wakeup call, he told reporters, “I’m not worried about him. I’m worried about myself”.
“I need to play better”, he went on, taking responsibility for the team’s collective failure. “He’ll be just fine. I have all the confidence in the world in him that he’s going to be a guy for us that we can count on. And I told him. I’m not going to shy away from throwing him the ball”.
One thing that Roethlisberger has consistently done throughout his career is that he has always propped up his skill position players either in words or in deeds when they are struggling, letting them know, either by saying it or literally doing it, that he’s not going to stop coming to him just because he made a mistake.
That’s the message he’s sending to Moncrief now, who needs to hear it, and whom the Steelers need to rebound in a big way, because at least for the time being, he is expected to be their number two wide receiver behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, who left last night’s game with what was called a toe injury.
The only player targeted more last night was Julian Edelman with 11 targets. He caught six of those for 83 yards. On the Steelers’ side of the field, Smith-Schuster’s eight targets was the second-most, catching six for 78 yards. He averaged just over 10 targets per game last year.
How will Moncrief look next week against the Seattle Seahawks? It will have to look much better than this. Roethlisberger has felt a strong rapport with the veteran throughout the offseason program, but that hasn’t yet been seen on the field in a meaningful game, and wasn’t overly apparent in the preseason either.