It might not seem significant. By the end of the season, it may well prove not to be. But the 11-yard reception that Donte Moncrief made last night for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their victory over the Los Angeles Chargers could prove to be big for him.
It was his first reception since he had three catches for a blistering seven yards in the season opener. It was the first time that he was even targeted—I believe the first time he had even played—since Week Two, when his playing time was greatly curtailed and he dropped the only pass that came his way.
With James Washington injured, however, Moncrief got the opportunity to not only dress, but to see playing time, albeit not a great deal. He finished the game with two targets, catching the one pass for 11 yards on second and 10 during the third quarter.
It was the first positive play that Moncrief has ever made as a Steelers since he signed a two-year, $9 million contract in the offseason to help flesh out their depth chart at wide receiver, which was now filled with young players following the trade of Antonio Brown.
While the youth has risen to the top, headed of course by JuJu Smith-Schuster and now with rookie Diontae Johnson essentially emerging as the number two target, plus Washington also in that mix, it was Moncrief who was viewed throughout the offseason as the guy who would come in and start.
He was drawing rave reviews from his teammates and coaches throughout the spring and summer until he suffered a finger injury early in training camp, and he pretty much hasn’t been the same since. He had a rough go of it in the preseason, fumbling the first time he was targeted, and then he proceeded to drop three passes (arguably more) in the opener on 10 targets.
The Steelers pounced on him early, benching him after two games and giving playing time to the young wide receivers on the roster, but knowing that the boomerang could, or would, eventually come back around to him.
Washington will probably be sidelined for at least one more game after the bye week from the way his injury has been talked about, so that could be another opportunity for Moncrief to make a positive impact and try to work his way back into the offensive conversation.
If he doesn’t, then it’s pretty likely that he could be released not soon after that. It is believed that his signed, coupled with the fact that L.J. Fort was released by the Philadelphia Eagles, is causing them to lose out on a third-round compensatory pick they would be eligible for from the loss of Le’Veon Bell for the 2020 NFL Draft.