By Matthew Marczi
With such little positivity following a humiliating defeat, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery did help provide just a sliver of sunshine for sullen Pittsburgh Steelers fans, as he continued to expand upon his excellent third season in the organization.
As expected this offseason, Cotchery has taken on a far more prominent role after inheriting the primary slot position following the departure of Mike Wallace in free agency. He has most certainly made the most of it.
In just half a season, Cotchery has already far surpassed his numbers from his previous two seasons.
In 2011, Cotchery was targeted 27 times in total, catching 16 passes for a completion percentage of 59.3. He amassed 237 yard and two touchdowns, dropping one pass and breaking three tackles.
Last season, Cotchery received 26 targets, yielding 17 of them, which was good for a completion percentage of 65.4. He had just 204 yards, however, and failed to score a touchdown while accounting for two drops.
This season is a much different story.
In eight games, Ben Roethlisberger has already looked Cotchery’s way 41 times, and the veteran receiver has really stepped up, bringing in 29 of those passes for a completion percentage of 70.7. He already has 424 yards while averaging 14.6 yards per reception. But most importantly, he leads the team with five touchdowns, and has only dropped a single pass this season.
In fact, if we go back to week three, we find that Cotchery has caught 22 of 25 passes thrown his direction, which equates to a completion percentage of 88. He had his first career 100-yard game since joining the Steelers against the Minnesota Vikings, and nearly had a second on Sunday, finishing with 96 yards.
Biggest of all: he had the first three-touchdown game of his entire career.
Cotchery has been so impressive this season, especially coming off this past game, that he has shot up the rankings list at Pro Football Focus and now stands 11th in their wide receiver ratings with a grade of 8.5. Only Cincinnati Bengals receiver Marvin Jones has earned a higher grade in less snaps than Cotchery. The site also notes that he earned the highest WR Rating (QB Rating targeting the WR) of the week with a rating of 156.3—near perfect.
Surprising exactly nobody, Cotchery earns a strong grade for his blocking, ranking fourth in the league at the position with a grade of 2.9. The veteran receiver has been showing all season that he still has it, and the naysayers who were demanding Markus Wheaton take over the slot have been eerily silent of late.