The 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers season seems like light years ago. The dismal 0-4 start to the season, which was a 42-yard Ryan Succop field goal away from being a Wild Card team at 8-8, was the beginning of something special in the Steel City, especially on offense.
In that season, it wasn't Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders who was the leader in the touchdown category at the wide receiver position. No, it was Jerricho Cotchery who hauled in over 600 yards receiving with a whopping 10 touchdowns to boot. The Steelers wanted to keep the reliable slot receiver in Pittsburgh after his contract expired, but the Carolina Panthers out bid them and Cotchery took his talents to Charlotte, NC.
As the Panthers prepare to face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, Cotchery was asked about his time in Pittsburgh by ESPN writer Jeremy Fowler. Cotchery looks back on his time in Pittsburgh as a positive experience, and one where he saw the offensive potential the team possessed.
"The last half of that year is when [Pittsburgh] started really getting comfortable with the offense they run now," Cotchery said. "They've got a good thing going offensively. They are going to continue to get better."
Cotchery saw the writing on the wall with Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton both in the fold with a promising career ahead of them, but his decision to go to Carolina was more than just monetary. Cotchery attended NC State, and he and his wife are both from the South.
"This was the place where it was going to be hard to say no," said Cotchery about Carolina.
Looking back, the situation couldn't have worked out better for both parties. Cotchery has become a great target for Cam Newton, as he was for Ben Roethlisberger while in Pittbsurgh, and the Steelers have gotten younger at the wide receiver position.
However, one aspect Cotchery brought to the table which hasn't been replaced was his ability to exploit defenses in the red-zone. The Steelers have a multitude of fast receivers who can take the top off the defense and stretch the field. The team has no issues moving the ball down the field, but when the field shortens is when the Steelers have had to settle for field goals more than they should.
The Steelers offense is primed for a breakout season in 2016, if they can stay healthy, and they should look no further than Cotchery and the Panthers amazing 2015 run as a guide of how to get back to the big dance in 2016.