Free-agent wide receiver Donte Moncrief has signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team announced on Thursday.
Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported the deal.
The 25-year-old Moncrief caught 48 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. He played his first four years with the Indianapolis Colts.
He will play alongside new No. 1 wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is taking over as the lead pass-catcher after Pittsburgh traded wideout Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders.
Moncrief should help form a new pass-catching trio with second-year wideout James Washington, who snagged 16 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown in limited action.
He obviously won’t replace Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro who has averaged 114 receptions per season since 2013.
The Steelers’ new pass-catcher also hasn’t been that consistent of late, as he has amassed no better than a 55.3 percent catch rate since 2016.
But Moncrief has also faced some obstacles over the past three years. In 2016, he suffered shoulder and hamstring issues and missed seven games. He still caught seven touchdown passes.
In 2017, Moncrief suffered injuries again and missed four games, but he was also without starting quarterback Andrew Luck, who sat the entire year recovering from shoulder surgery.
Moncrief then moved to Jacksonville, where the bottom fell out after a promising 2017 season. The 2018 team scored the second-fewest points in the league, and Jacksonville benched starting quarterback Blake Bortles twice. Running back Leonard Fournette also missed half the season with hamstring injuries, and no tight end accumulated more than 214 yards.
The whole offense was a disappointment, and Moncrief may have fallen victim to that.
But now he’s on a stout Steelers offense with a great offensive line, a bona fide star in Smith-Schuster and a solid franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. Moncrief isn’t about to snag 100-plus passes like Brown, but he could see a strong production spike in 2019.
Reggie Wayne is hard at work in his primary job this week, offering his opinion and analysis on a variety of NFL Network shows from the station’s set at Super Bowl LIII, the center of the football universe.
He doesn’t know yet if he’ll return to his other role when the NFL gets back on the practice field in April.
Wayne spent part of last spring and summer working with Colts wide receivers as a volunteer assistant to assistant coach Kevin Patullo.
“Too early to tell,” Wayne said to media Wednesday. “I enjoyed it. I think coaching is in my blood, I think it’s something that I would want to do. It’s just got to be the right time.”
Colts head coach Frank Reich invited Wayne, who was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at Lucas Oil in November, to serve as an assistant last offseason.
Any return by Wayne starts with the Colts.
“I’ll just play it by ear,” Wayne said. “We’ll see how it goes. If they ask me to do it, I’ll look into it.”
Wayne, one of the most beloved figures in Colts history, is frequently asked to offer his opinions on his old team on the NFL Network. At times, that has produced headlines, such as when he said he’d pick up Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell from the airport if he wanted to come to Indianapolis.
Now that the season is over, though, Wayne’s assessment of the Colts’ needs mirrors what General Manager Chris Ballard has been saying.
“Firstly, I think they need to get a pass rusher,” Wayne said at an NFL Network availability. “They need somebody to get after the quarterback. … If you’re not going to blitz much, you need to get after the quarterback. Focus on the defense a little bit, got to get them going.”
Beyond a pass rusher and another addition at a position he knows better than any other, Wayne likes what he sees out of a Colts team that fought its way back from 1-5 to make the playoffs and win a playoff game.
Wayne sees the Colts as a team on the rise.
“They need a receiver,” Wayne said. “Other than that, they’re a young team, they’ve pretty much got everybody in place. … If they can keep everybody together, stay healthy, just plug a couple guys in here and there, I think they’ll be all right.”