Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: WR Donte Moncrief
Stock Value: Down (Sold)
The Steelers didn’t have much time left if they were going to decide to make a move, but they also had a convenient excuse to do so as well. On the eve of their Week Nine contest against the Indianapolis Colts, with a need—perhaps more of a ‘want’—at the running back position, Mike Tomlin decided to let veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief go to open up the roster spot.
Moncrief, originally signed in March to a two-year, $9 million deal, came in with the expectation that he would be a starting wide receiver across from JuJu Smith-Schuster. He entered the regular season in that role, but after dropping at least four passes in the first two game, he has hardly played since then. He will have finished his tenure in Pittsburgh with exactly one successful play, an 11-yard reception on second and long. And it was a nice catch, to be fair.
But when discussing this move, we have to talk about the background as well, because it wasn’t a decision made in a vacuum. He was chosen as the candidate to be released in very large part because in doing so it preserved for them a projected third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, from the free agency loss of Le’Veon Bell.
Had Moncrief been healthy—he injured a finger early in training camp and it never really healed—and contributing in a positive fashion, would the Steelers have made this same move? They are not ones to pay much attention to the compensatory pick process, let alone make decisions centered around it, but they also made moves since free agency with the assumption that they would have that pick.
Any way you slice it, though, the sixth-year veteran’s tenure in Pittsburgh was highly disappointing, and I’m sure that applies to nobody more than it does to himself. He came to the Steelers truly believing he could reach new heights in his career playing in this offense. In large part because of that finger injury, he never really got that opportunity—or at least dropped it when presented.