Let's be honest, the Steelers offense is average, at best. Most weeks, you don't have to tune into a game longer than a quarter or so to know that the "under" was probably a good wager to make.
Through the first nine games of the 2013 season, Pittsburgh has averaged 21 points a game and has only scored 17 touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger has struggled so much in Todd Haley's new offense and behind the injured and still learning offensive line that he may or may not want to be traded after the season, depending on whether or not you believe Ian Rapoport's sources.
And with a running game that has struggled to produce on a consistent basis, and a group of passing targets that doesn't go much beyond Heath Miller in the tight end department and No. 3 receiver Jerricho Cotchery at wide receiver, things don't appear to be getting better, anytime soon.
Speaking of Cotchery, just how bad would things be if he wasn't so solid and dependable this year?
Cotchery isn't a No. 1 or 2 receiver. He's not a great talent and certainly not someone you would want to build your offense around, but is he the perfect veteran No. 3 receiver, or what?
When you factor in the flow of the passing game--Antonio Brown, the team's highly-paid No. 1 receiver, is leading the NFL in receptions with 67, Emmanuel Sanders is second on the team with 41 receptions, and team-favorite Miller is always a huge presence in the game plan--it's a wonder Cotchery has been able to maintain his focus long-enough to remain a factor. But it's a testament to his veteran stature that he has remained so valuable, even during a down year for the offense and the team, as a whole.
I mentioned the 17 touchdowns the team has scored this season, and Cotchery is responsible for a whopping six of them--including three last week in the loss 55-31 loss at New England, and one on Sunday in the 23-10 victory over the Bills at Heinz Field.
Not only is Cotchery a wise veteran who provides leadership, he has a way of emulating past veterans, such as Hines Ward. Early in Sunday's game, the Steelers faced a third and five, when Roethlisberger connected with Cotchery on the sideline for a first down. And instead of simply going out of bounds with the first down secure, Cotchery did a very Ward-like spin and turned up-field to turn it into a 26 yard gain. For the remainder of the day, Cotchery only had one more catch for five yards, but it was a catch off a fade pass that resulted in a touchdown for the 6'1 receiver--Ward would have been proud.
Like previous Steelers veterans, such as backup quarterback Charlie Batch and backup running back and third down specialist Mewelde Moore, Cotchery has been the consummate professional during his two and a half seasons in Pittsburgh and never seems to have a discouraging word to say to anyone. Reporters often comment on his easy-going demeanor and calming presence in the locker room.
Considering his age (31) and contract status (free agent after this season), it's unclear what will happen to Cotchery during what figures to be yet another soul-searching offseason for the franchise. However, with 31 catches and 455 yards through nine games, Cotchery is on a pace for 55 and 808, respectively--that's not bad for a No. 3 receiver in any offense, but especially one that's deficient in many areas.
Also, Cotchery appears to have red zone chemistry with Roethlisberger--pretty rare for No. 7 and anyone else associated with Pittsburgh's offense this season.
Wholesale changes on offense will probably be the result of that soul-searching I mentioned earlier, but removing Cotchery as that wise, dependable veteran No. 3 receiver shouldn't be one of them.
The Steelers could do a whole lot worse than Jerricho Cotchery.