Keeping Cotchery was key for Steelers

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
3:46
PM ET
The statistics suggest the Pittsburgh Steelers simply signed a backup for the second straight day of free agency. But don't overlook the Steelers keeping wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.

A source told the New York Daily News that Cotchery signed a two-year deal with the Steelers, and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter has confirmed the report. This is a much more important addition than tight end Leonard Pope, who agreed to a deal Tuesday.

Cotchery finished with his lowest reception total since his 2004 rookie season, but he gained a chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger as the season progressed. A 31-yard touchdown pass to Cotchery with 3:48 remaining in the fourth quarter sent the playoff game at Denver into overtime.

This is why Roethlisberger publicly campaigned to re-sign Cotchery. "Without Hines [Ward], I think you have to do everything you can to sign Jerricho back," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in early March. "He's not only a veteran leader in that room but a really good player. I'd love to see him come back because he's a really good receiver and I like what he brings to the team."

Before the Steelers brought back Cotchery, they had no one with any experience behind Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. The lack of depth was an obvious concern because coach Mike Tomlin said he was unsure whether Sanders could remain healthy for an entire season.

The Steelers needed to bring back Cotchery for much-needed insurance. If he plays the way he did in the second half of last year (15 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns), there's a good shot that he could get the No. 3 wide receiver job over Sanders. Cotchery received the chance to play a more important role when Sanders was injured and Ward was being phased out of the offense.

Cotchery drew interest from the Rams and Chiefs before returning to Pittsburgh.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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