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 lose his position as the number two receiver by midseason.
Explanation: While he is the highest-paid wide receiver on the roster, in addition to the most veteran and the most experienced, the Steelers do have a small stockpile of young pedigree at the position that they would like to get on the field. Moncrief is also coming off an ugly showing in his Steelers debut.
If we’re going by the first game, then it is nothing short of an inevitability. He only caught three of 10 targets, and the majority of the passes that he did not secure hit him in the hands. Some of those would be contested and dislodged after the catch, but a player of his stature is expected to complete that process and secure the ball before it can be punched out.
Meanwhile, James Washington wasn’t and hasn’t been perfect, but he is starting to make plays. He had a strong preseason, and then was the only receiver to make a big play on Sunday. As they continue to flesh out his route tree working with Ben Roethlisberger, he will edge out Moncrief as the number two receiver. They’re just being cautious with him in year two after rushing his progress last year and likely stunting his early growth.
This is all just an overreaction to a bad game. Washington is going to get more and more playing time going forward as he continues to earn it, but Moncrief is still the number two target on this team. He knows his first game performance was not up to the expectations, as does everybody else, but it’s one game, and they’re all moving on.
While he’s never going to be a dominant number two, he’ll be a strong complementary player, and there’s still no reason to believe he isn’t lined up for the best year of his career. A few weeks from now, we’ll have forgotten about his struggles securing catches in Foxboro.