As I was going over the transcript of head coach Mike Tomlin’s Tuesday pre-game press conference, it struck me as odd that nobody asked the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach about the team’s decision to waive veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief. While the reason for doing so was obvious, and it was the right move to make, it is normally something that would be commented upon.
It was, in fact, never mentioned. The only mention of Moncrief through the team since his release was the mere statement of his being waived. I’m pretty sure even Ladarius Green got asked about after he was let go. LeGarrette Blount as well.
Moncrief signed a two-year, $9 million contract. While that’s not a massive free agent splash, it was a pretty serious commitment for the Steelers, who had intentions of him being a full-time, everyday starter in 2019 while the young wide receivers—at the time, James Washington and Ryan Switzer, with Diontae Johnson later added in the draft—had the opportunity to develop and find roles behind him and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Was it really simply a matter of everybody understanding exactly the circumstances? Because it is unusual for a player of relative prominence to be let go completely without comment. Even the Baltimore Ravens, when releasing safety Justin Bethel for the same reason the Steelers waived Moncrief—to preserve a compensatory draft pick—were quick to address it during their next press conference.
“Justin Bethel, unfortunately, had to be released because of a funky rule that the NFL has with these compensatory picks“, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “A judgement has to be made in terms of the future as well. You guys can research that and figure all that stuff out. But that’s tough for us because I think he’s the best special teams player in the NFL. He’s playing that way. So that’s gonna be a blow”.
Moncrief did start the first two games of the season, but he dropped four passes on 11 targets, catching only three passes for eight yards. He since added only one more catch in the five additional games for which he was on the roster, inactive for two of them as a healthy scratch.
Or at least, relatively healthy. One can’t help but wonder how drastically his season was shaped by the finger injury that he suffered in training camp. He was drawing rave reviews from teammates and coaches alike up to that point.
Yet the finger injury wasn’t something that kept the Carolina Panthers from claiming him and the rest of his contract off of waivers. It will be interesting to see how much of a contributor he can be for them over the course of the next eight games.