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Mike Tomlin acknowledges Donte Moncrief’s struggles, uncertain of his role with Steelers moving forward

The free agent acquisition has not just been a disappointment, but also a liability

Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

“We’ll see.”

There are many ways this phrase can be used. It’s noncommittal by nature, but sometimes completely positive or negative based on the situation. When my children are asking me to go to McDonald’s, it’s my way of politely deflecting the question. When asked about how the Steelers will perform on Sunday, it’s hopefully optimistic. But when a head coach is asked about allowing a player to work through their struggles, it is a far cry from a ringing endorsement.

In Tuesday’s press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he was going to give Donte Moncrief a chance to work through his struggles.

“We’ll see.”

There are a lot of ways Steelers’ fans could take this comment. Some are afraid Moncrief will continue to see a large number of targets and he will constantly drop passes. Others may see this as his role being reduced. But I believe these words were meant directly for Moncrief himself: Either get out of the funk you’re in when it comes to catching the ball, or you’re not going to even find yourself with a helmet on game day.

To put the comment in context, Tomlin was first asked what he made of Donte Moncrief’s struggles so far in 2019 with the Steelers.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” Tomlin answered. “I know that we haven’t been able to depend on him to this point, so he’s got some challenges, and we have some challenges moving forward.”

Coach Tomlin seemed to layout the situation pretty accurately with Moncrief without sounding too harsh. It was his two-word answer to the follow-up question of giving him a chance to work through things which spoke more than his first response. It was the opposite of what fans are used to getting from Mike Tomlin: using two words to say 100.

It has also been Moncrief’s play on the field which has spoken volumes. In two games, he has three catches for seven yards on 11 targets. Ten of Moncrief’s targets were in Week 1 while the lone target against Seattle went through his hands. So instead of a first down, it turned into the first interception of Mason Rudolph‘s career. It was Moncrief’s inability to catch the ball which led to an opponent’s drive ending in seven points.

So where does Moncrief now lie in the pecking order of wide receivers for the Steelers? Is he still the number two option behind JuJu Smith-Schuster like the initial depth chart indicated? Or has he fallen to a point where the Steelers could consider only dressing five wide receivers on Sunday with Moncrief left out in the cold? There’s really only one good answer to all of these questions.

“We’ll see.”