PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin confirmed on Tuesday the prevailing thought after the Pittsburgh Steelers signed former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore last Friday following the departure of Jerricho Cotchery.
Markus Wheaton, who played just 152 snaps as a rookie, will get the first crack at filling the starting spot opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown, with Moore taking over for Cotchery as the Steelers’ No. 3 wide receiver.
“Similar to Jerricho, he’s a savvy veteran that is capable of winning above the neck,” Tomlin said of Moore at the NFL owners meetings. “He can create space at break points. He’s done that. He developed a significant rapport with a guy like Drew Brees over the years. Hopefully he will do the same with Ben Roethlisberger.”
The Steelers aren’t done looking for wide receiver help and the most logical place for them to add another player who can contribute next season is through the draft.
An exceptionally strong draft is loaded at wide receiver and the Steelers are expected to take one with one of their first three picks (they have a third-round selection after getting awarded one as a compensatory pick earlier this week).
ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay said he has given 16 wide receivers first-, second- or third-round grades, which is an unusually high number.
“Obviously, we need some quality depth there,” Tomlin said of the Steelers’ situation at wide receiver, “and we will fill that, whether it’s through free agency or through the draft.”
Tomlin was asked about Cotchery at the NFL owners meetings, and it sounds like the seventh-year coach hated to lose the player who led the Steelers with 10 touchdown receptions last season.
The Steelers had hoped to re-sign Cotchery, but the Panthers offered the 10th-year veteran the kind of deal that pushed him out of Pittsburgh’s range.
Cotchery signed a two-year deal worth as much as $5 million, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and the contract includes a $2.25 million signing bonus.
“Jerricho is a savvy veteran, professional player,” Tomlin said. “He is a guy that is always where he is supposed to be when he needs to be there. He will provide that. But aside from the plays, he is a quality human being and professional. He is a blueprint for young players to follow.”