Before we get underway with this afternoon’s game, I did want to touch on one topic. The Pittsburgh Steelers announced yesterday that they waived veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief. They waited until the last possible moment and used his slot to call up a running back from the practice squad who had recently been signed, since they were down to just two healthy backs of four on the 53.
While it was the right decision to make, and one that I already wrote weeks ago that they should—and not hesitate to do—I also think it would be, at the very least, in poor taste to take any sort of satisfaction over this, as we’ve seen many do.
I understand the counterargument that Moncrief was paid well for his brief service in Pittsburgh, and certainly getting millions of dollars makes it all easier to deal with, but we’re still talking about a motivated individual losing his job.
The sixth-year veteran wide receiver signed with the Steelers this offseason thinking that he was walking into a golden opportunity that would finally see his career take off the way he always believed it could, after years of playing with sub-par performances at the quarterback position.
But he didn’t last much longer than did his new quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who never played after the first half of the team’s Week Two loss. He would go on to have surgery on his throwing elbow, and he can now be seen haunting the sidelines of Heinz Field with his bionic arm, willing loose balls to stay inbounds or go out of bounds, depending upon whom it favors.
But his bionic arm has had no more success controlling the fate of the irregularly-shaped sports equipment than has Moncrief’s busted finger allow him to hand on to the football in the opportunities that he did get.
He did enter the regular season as the full-time starter across from JuJu Smith-Schuster, and was afforded every opportunity in that game, receiving 10 targets. He caught only three of them for seven yards, and dropped at least three of those that he failed to come down with. His lone target the following week he also dropped, allowing it to be intercepted, and since then, he has become nearly non-existent.
This rough start, highly influenced by his finger injury suffered early in training camp, plays as much of a role in his release as the compensatory pick formula. Had he not injured his hand, perhaps he makes plays all along, and it never becomes a question whom the number two receiver is.
Knowing the Steelers organization, if they had a quality player they were comfortable starting, they were not going to release him just to preserve a compensatory pick that may or may not yield a competent player in the future.
The bottom line is this: there is nothing to be gained by taking any glee in Moncrief’s misfortune. While the realities of the business of the NFL dictate this as the logical move, and he obviously became a rather unpopular player in Pittsburgh in a short amount of time, we also have to understand the contributing factors in his story, and the opportunities lost.