Roethlisberger laments loss of Cotchery

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger confirmed two things Tuesday during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.

One, the Steelers weren’t expecting to lose wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery to free agency. Two, the Steelers will miss Cotchery, and not just because the seasoned veteran caught a career-high 10 touchdown passes in 2013.

“J Co, along with Heath Miller, was one of the best teammates that I’ve ever played with in any sport,” Roethlisberger said. “I didn’t see us losing him so it made it a little tougher when you’re not expecting someone to go. But he has to do what was best for his family just like everyone else that we’ve lost.”

Cotchery appeared as likely as any of the unrestricted free agents to re-sign with the Steelers after he thrived as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver in 2013.

But the Carolina Panthers offered him a two-year, $5 million contract after their wide receivers corps got raided, and that proved to be more than what the Steelers were willing to pay to keep Cotchery in Pittsburgh.

Shortly after Cotchery joined the Panthers, the Steelers signed former Saints wide receiver Lance Moore to a two-year, $3 million contract.

The Steelers are expected to draft a wide receiver later this week, perhaps as early as the first round.

General manager Kevin Colbert said earlier this week that the Steelers are pleased with what they have been able to accomplish in free agency despite some of the players they have lost.

“We went into the offseason with a specific plan in mind,” Colbert said, “and I think to a large degree that plan unfolded as we expected it to and we were happy with the way it did.”