For one reason or another, it seemed as though Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery had somewhat fallen out of the rotation in recent weeks in a move that seemed to coincide with the re-emergence of tight end Heath Miller as a receiving threat.
In the two games prior to Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, he combined for just two receptions for six yards, although one of those yards was a touchdown pass on a play on which he was left inexplicably wide open.
For whatever reason, be it personnel matchups, game circumstances, or coincidence, it certainly seemed this week as though Cotchery was a bigger piece of the puzzle than he had been in recent weeks.
His five receptions was the most that he had since the game against the New England Patriots, when he had a season-high seven receptions for 96 yards—nearly his second 100-yard game of the year—and of course three touchdowns.
He also added another 62 yards to his season total, which was the third-highest yardage total in a single game for him thus far in 2013, and brought up his season total to 571 yards—or 129 more yards than he had accumulated in his first two years with the Steelers combined, with three games left to play.
Oh, and he obviously scored yet another touchdown, bringing his team-leading total now to nine on the year, which ranks tied for ninth in the league.
Perhaps most surprising, given his…lack of top end speed…and the fact that he is almost exclusively a slot receiver is that his yards per catch surpasses both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
In fact, Cotchery is averaging 13.9 yards per catch, and even more surprisingly, he is averaging a full five yards after contact per catch.
Granted, much of that is surely a product of not just screen passes but also end-of-game opportunities, such as when he racked up the yardage at the end of the Minnesota Vikings game.
But it also speaks to his drive and his nose for the first-down marker, knowing that that is his job.
We have written before about his prowess for converting third downs and about his resilience in fighting his way to the marker here before, so that should not be surprising, but I think the yards after catch stat does somewhat back that up.