By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH -- To to borrow a quote from noted Pittsburgh Steelers linguist Ike Taylor: "J-cho is J-cho.''
Former Steelers wideout Jerricho Cotchery, now with the Carolina Panthers, was always a stand-up guy in the locker room and a more than reliable slot receiver with 10 touchdown catches last season.
Cotchery has just eight catches and no scores for the 2-0 Panthers, who play host to the Steelers Sunday night, but Taylor believes he and the club's secondary still have to account for their former teammate.
"He's still getting open, still finding holes in the zone and making plays,'' Taylor said. "He can play inside or outside, it doesn't matter. It all depends on the rapport a guy has with his quarterback, and I'm sure it didn't take Cam long to realize that J-cho can make plays if you get him the ball.''
Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward addressed that issue specifically.
"Having (Jerricho) Cotchery and having (Kelvin) Benjamin and (Greg) OIsen, those are the guys Cam can rely on if that stuff starts to break down,'' Heyward said. So, he doesn't have to do it all by himself.''
Carolina coach Ron Rivera believed that Cotchery was the perfect fit for the Panthers receiving corps.
"He's been solid for us,'' Rivera said. "He really has. It's interesting, because in our situation we were looking for a veteran guy to come in and help us, and he fit the bill. He's been as advertised."
"There were so many nice things said about him when we were trying to do all the background on him. Once we got him on board, we talked to some of your people and they all said great things about him afterwards. He's been as advertised. He's a solid, young man.''
Since the Steelers believed they would lose Emmanuel Sanders in free agency after last season, they attempted to retain Cotchery. But he eventually signed with the Panthers for $8.015 million over five years with a signing bonus at $2.25 million.
"At the end of the day, when you are entering free agency, you just have to come to terms on deals,'' Cotchery said. "I wasn't able to do that (with the Steelers). That's how it played out. (But) I really enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed working for the Rooneys, playing for Coach Tomlin and catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger."
"And I enjoyed working with all of the guys there. They treated me like family. It was a blessed time in my life. I know my wife and I cherished those three years that we were there. I definitely cherished that time that I had there. It was a blessed period of time in my life and not just from a football standpoint.''
While Cotchery became a favorite target for Roethlisberger in the red zone last season, his new quarterback -- young superstar Cam Newton -- has numerous weapons at his disposal. So, Cotchery's role is somewhat diminished so far.
"(Cam) communicates at a high level,'' Cotchery said. "I think that has helped a lot when it comes to chemistry with having a new group of guys. It's just fun to be out there with him. I'm just looking forward to that chemistry growing, winning football games and putting points on the board.''
Cotchery was asked if having a familiarity with being covered by Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen was to his advantage. Cotchery believed it had a mutual effect on the Steelers. Then he rated his old team's defense.
"I heard there was going to be an emphasis on getting faster and you can definitely see the speed,'' Cotchery said. "Those guys are flying around. Their new guy, 50 [Ryan Shazier] is all over the place."
"Lawrence Timmons is always in on tackles. It seems like they're having a competition on who is going to get the most tackles every week. They're flying around quite a bit. It's a young group. But I think they are doing a great job of playing hard and fast.''