The Pittsburgh Steelers knew what they had found when Jerricho Cotchery paid them a visit during training camp in 2011 after being released by his original team, the New York Jets; so much, they not only offered him a contract, but also a two-year extension before the season started.
They had found a player who had experience as a starter, leading and co-starting for the Jets alongside Lavernaeus Coles. They had found a player who was unafraid to put his body on the line to make an important catch. They had found a man of good character, grounded by faith. Most importantly, they had found the leader to guide the team's receiving youth into NFL adulthood.
Ralph N. Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently highlighted Cotchery's veteran leadership, and spoke to the player about his role with the Steelers.
"I'm trying to help the young guys as much as I can. I've seen young guys come in, and the expectations are they are the future. I've seen veteran guys not give them advice, and it shouldn't be like that."
Cotchery was caught 'getting his hands dirty' with the younger members of the group during contact drills, sharing some tricks of the trade he's picked up since entering the NFL in the 2004 NFL draft.
"I've played in a lot of games and gained a lot of experience over the years. I've seen enough things that I can share with them. I've seen so many looks that I know what's going on when a guy lines up over me."
Teaching and leading by example have been Cotchery's biggest contributions to the Steelers, having spent most of his Pittsburgh career on the sidelines behind rising stars Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
"The past of couple of years, I haven't been on the field because these young guys kept me off the field. I'm locked into the slot, which gives me more of an opportunity to contribute."
Cotchery has 33 receptions since joining the Steelers, a far cry from the 358 passes he grabbed in seven seasons with the Jets. Being 'locked' into a more prevalent role with Wallace playing for the Miami Dolphins will make the most of his ability to be a reliable possession target with Heath Miller out recovering from a 2012 ACL tear.
While his lack of on-field participation have given off the perception of his not being important to the team's success, as captured by CBS insider Jason La Canfora's suggestion of a possible trade, Cotchery has been the mentor to young men learning the pro-game, most currently Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Derek Moye, J.D. Woods and Reggie Dunn. In 2013, the Steelers may reap the benefits of not only his contributions on the field with his play, but on the sidelines as well through his experience, knowledge and wisdom.
"I try to share that with a young guy like Wheaton. If I'm not sharing everything I know — as well as making plays myself — then I'm not helping us accomplish our goal of winning the Super Bowl."
Perhaps Cotchery was destined to be a part of Steelers history, being born with six fingers on one hand - the same number of Super Bowl championships won by the organization; however, his presence during seasons with rosters full of young, promising prospects has been more than timely.
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