After it became obvious that a further relationship with Antonio Brown was no longer sustainable, the Pittsburgh Steelers put into motion a plan to try to replenish their wide receiver room, which ultimately saw a 50 percent turnover at the position from last season. The only three players returning are JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ryan Switzer, with Brown, Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, and Darrius Heyward-Bey now gone (Hunter finished last season on IR).
The most prominent of the new faces was Donte Moncrief, the first one in, signed early in free agency to a two-year contract worth a total of $9 million. His teammates, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, had consistently high praise for him throughout the offseason, but he missed or was limited for much of training camp after suffering a finger injury.
He was presumed to be back up and running before long, but after last night’s performance, one has to wonder if that injured finger was a problem, because if it was, then it will continue to be so throughout the season.
The Steelers fed Moncrief, but he didn’t appear to be hungry. His 10 targets were the most for anybody on the team, but he only managed to catch three of them for a stunningly low seven yards. Even Switzer manages to get better than that.
What’s really concerning is that Moncrief’s passes were on-target. He had at least three or four passes that hit his hands that he was unable to secure. While a defender was involved in most of these incidents, a big-bodied and veteran receiver such as himself should know how to be able to secure those catches in contested situations, allowing the defender to pick his pocket far too often. One of those occurred in the end zone.
Given that the Steelers consider him a starting wide receiver, it goes without saying that they absolutely cannot see him continue to play this way. This game has to stand as a freak aberration in his future with the Steelers, because if not, he’s quickly going to find himself sitting on the sidelines.
After the game, he called the result and his performance “a wake-up call”. He had better wake up and eat, and get hungry, because he didn’t look like somebody who was ready to feast. It’s been widely expected that he’s in for a career year. The early results are far from promising, but the table is set for him to redeem himself next week, as is always the case.