The wide receiver group is a position in transition, and one free agent addition Donte Moncrief insists will be built from the bottom up.
“As (receivers) coach (Darryl Drake) said, you’re always going to be as strong as your weakest guy,” Moncrief observed. “In our room we try to pick everybody up, make sure everybody’s on the same page and make sure everybody’s ready to go to play every position.
“If we can do that, our receivers room will be electric.”
Moncrief’s theory: As long as they stay plugged in, they’ll have a chance to shine brightly.
“You have to take it from meetings onto the field,” he said. “If you can do that, you’ll produce.”
With five NFL seasons under his belt, Moncrief leads the Steelers’ new-look receiving corps in experience.
He’s also the Steelers’ most accomplished receiver statistically, with 200 career NFL catches for 2,543 yards and 21 touchdowns to his credit (just ahead of the 169 receptions, 2,343 yards and 14 scores JuJu Smith-Schuster has amassed in two seasons).
Most of the rest of the group lacks a track record but not potential, Moncrief maintained.
His observations on a few of them through three weeks of OTAs included:
Dionte Johnson: “He’s fast, he’s very quick and he has great hands. Once he learns the whole playbook he’s going to produce. On that field, he’s super fast.”
James Washington: “They said he was kind of big last year. Since I’ve been here and watching him you can tell he’s been working on stuff. His hands are super strong, he’s explosive and he can jump out of the gym. I feel like he’s going to have a good year this year.”
Smith-Schuster: “He’s a smart guy. You can tell he’s been under somebody who knew the game. He’s learned a lot, he’s learning how to read defenses and he’s a trusted guy. He’s going to catch the ball, he’s going to make plays and after the catch he’s going to make a lot of yards, that’s a good thing.”
The challenge for the receivers, individually and collectively, will be to keep the offense humming minus the production the Steelers had come to annually expect from Antonio Brown.
That worked out to 104 catches, 1,297 yards and 15 TDs in 2018.
The 10 players competing at wide receiver throughout OTAs have taken a critical first step toward compensating, Moncrief maintained.
“They’re doing well,” he said. “They’re picking up the offense and they’re learning defenses. You can tell they want to learn and they’re coming out here working every day, thats all that matters.
“If you come out and work and do everything right, everything else will fall into to place.”
The Steelers participate in day 10 of the 2019 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex