Following what he admitted was the worst game of his career, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief is eager to move forward and to get back out on the field to show that he is far more capable than his performance in the season opener would indicate.
Moncrief received a team-high 10 targets in the passing game during Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, but came away with just three receptions for a total of seven yards. Five of the seven incompletions were at least on-target passes, some of which were contested by a defender.
“You can’t just sit there and pout about it”, the sixth-year veteran said of his struggles in the opener, via Mike Prisuta for the team’s website. “You gotta get better, and that’s what I’m doing”.
Moncrief admitted that an injury to his middle finger that he suffered early in training camp is continuing to affect him, but maintained that that had no bearing on his performance. “You can’t just put it on that. I gotta make plays, period. You gotta go with it, even if it’s hurt or not you still gotta play”.
The former Indianapolis Colts third-round draft pick was signed by the Steelers this offseason in order to help soften the blow that the loss of Antonio Brown would deal to the offense, and he has been penciled in as their number two receiver since his signing.
That role only further stabilized after building a positive rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who sang his praises earlier this offseason, saying that he was impressed with his catch radius, his ability to complete catches on poorly thrown balls, and his football intelligence, able to step in and run the no-huddle in a new offense.
Roethlisberger “depended on me”, he said, “and I gotta make plays for him, hurt finger or not”. For his part, the quarterback has consistently maintained that Moncrief’s struggles will not affect his trust in his number two target, and he reiterated that earlier today.
“I’m not going to shy away from him”, he said once again, repeating the same thing that he told reports on Sunday night in the locker room in the immediate aftermath of the loss. “I’m excited for him this week. I think we’ll see some big things”.
Moncrief appreciated his quarterback having his back, saying that “it’s huge” for Roethlisberger “to come out and say something like that. To hear that he has trust in you, that he knows you can make plays. So I’ve just got to make those plays for him”.
Roethlisberger targeted him twice in the end zone. On the first pass, he had the ball in his hands, only to have it dislodged by the defender. On a second target, on a fade route, he appeared to turn the wrong way initially and was unable to catch up to the ball.
He has no doubt been hearing it from fans since Sunday, and he knows that the only way to redeem himself is to get back on the field and make them forget what should be a very forgettable night for the entire team. Even with a bad finger, he’ll be putting his best foot forward in his first game at Heinz Field with the Steelers on Sunday.