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Assessing the value of Panthers' WR Jerricho Cotchery if he stayed in Pittsburgh

Jerricho Cotchery took the highest bid in free agency and is now in Carolina, Pittsburgh’s Week 3 opponent. What might have been, had Cotchery stayed with the Steelers?

Grant Halverson

The lack of experience is starting to show in the wide receiver corps of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was painfully evident during the Baltimore game when fans collectively cringed when Justin Brown fumbled inside the red zone on the team's opening drive. It was all too familiar. A game vs. the Ravens, a dropped pass (Emmanuel Sanders) or a fumble (Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders). Steelers receivers that used to be such a big part of the team's victories now make headlines in a loss.

In fact, overall the Steelers receivers have been living in Drop City, USA. It's enough to make you wonder if things might have been different had the Steelers held onto Jerricho Cotchery.

Why you ask? Regardless of the level of talent, it's rare to see a young group making huge plays with little to no issues. When things are going wrong, you need the older vet guys to settle the group down. That's why you keep them, not because they're the flashiest or make the most money, but because you know when they report for duty they'll make the plays.

Cotchery was that guy against Detroit in a win that kick-started the Steelers' run toward the playoffs during the second half of last season. The Steelers wanted a tall, red-zone threat but, instead, they made do with Cotchery's hands and ability to get open in small spaces. He had 10 touchdowns in that role. But through two games this season, the Steelers have exactly zero touchdown passes in the red zone.

They also have exactly zero games played by Cotchery's replacement, veteran Lance Moore. He has missed the first two games with a groin injury, but is expected to suit up against Cotchery's Panthers Sunday. Perhaps that's a step in the right direction but, as the team sits with $10 million or so in cap space, it's hard to say that letting a free-agent receiver worth keeping last year walk for a low-dollar, low-risk deal.

It's a different analogy but look at Heath Miller. You're shocked when he drops a pass because it's so rare. The Steelers need the Heath Miller kind of receivers. They had that in Cotchery and perhaps Moore will step into that role. This makes Sunday night a big game for him. Maybe he ends up being the new Cotchery, or we might find out whether letting the original Cotchery depart for greener pastures might come back to haunt them now.