It goes without saying that Sunday’s game against the Patriots was one of the worst performances by a Steelers team in a very long time. I could write about the atrocious play of the defense or the questions that surround this team going forward. But I’m not going to do that. Not because those aren’t important topics; they are. However, there are plenty of stories out there about those topics and I don’t want to regurgitate the same things that are being said elsewhere.
Instead I want to focus on what was the brightest spot on an otherwise dismal afternoon for the Steelers: the play of Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery had quite a day for himself, racking up 3 touchdowns on 7 receptions to go along with 96 yards receiving. This could be shaping up to be one of the better seasons of his career.
Through eight games, he has five touchdowns, 424 receiving yards and has one drop on the season. He’s starting to remind me of Heath Miller in terms of hanging onto the ball.
What does this mean on a bad team who seems to be struggling for an offensive identity every week? I’m not quite sure, to be honest. I do know that Jerricho Cotchery has made this offense better. He now leads the team in receiving touchdowns. Antonio Brown is clearly the number one receiver on this team and he should be. But the case could be made the Cotchery has become their number two receiver, ahead of Emmanuel Sanders.
Cotchery has had better results this season that Sanders. Sanders has about 70 more yards on eight more receptions. However, in every other statistical category, Cotchery has the edge. More touchdowns, better percentage of targets caught, higher yards per reception, and even more yards after the catch. (Cotchery is also outperforming former Steeler Mike Wallace, for the record).
This is not to say that Sanders is not a good receiver. It also doesn’t mean that the Steelers made a mistake by signing him before this season, because wide receiver depth would certainly be lacking if they had. But it is nice to see that a quiet free agent signing before the 2011 season has worked out pretty well for the team.
It would be nice to see Cotchery on the field and targeted more. Defenses are more likely to cover Brown, Sanders, and Heath Miller. Since he’s been hanging onto every ball thrown his way, he could be quite the asset. On Sunday, he was (obviously) targeted repeatedly in the red zone and it would be nice to see that trend continue as well. Jerricho Cotchery could be the Steelers secret weapon on offense. Who would’ve thought?