NFL Free Agency: Jerricho Cotchery Will Replace Pittsburgh Steelers' Hines Ward

Vincenzo LandinoContributor IIIAugust 15, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Jerricho Cotchery #89 of the New York Jets returns a punt against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 24-19.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Last Thursday the Pittsburgh Steelers made their big free agent signing, Jerricho Cotchery.  A 6'0" 212-pound, 4.54 40 wide receiver drafted by the New York Jets in 2004, has decided to leave Gang Green and join the Steel Curtain.

I mention his size and speed for one reason: Cotchery is in the same mold as Hines Ward in terms of size and speed. Cotchery also has the kind of hands that make coaches proud.  

For Steelers Nation, let me introduce the man, that in my opinion, could end up being Hines Ward's replacement.  

Cotchery attended North Carolina State University where he was named was a two-time All-ACC selection. He broke school records with 200 career receptions and 15 career 100-yard receiving games, both previously held by consensus All-American Torry Holt (1995–98), and finished second to Holt in school history with 3,119 yards and 21 touchdown catches.

Cotchery and Florida State's Peter Warrick are the only two receivers in ACC history to record 200 career receptions and 3,000 career receiving yards. He caught at least one pass in 39 consecutive games, which ties for the longest streak in school history, ranks 33rd in NCAA history for career receiving yards and is tied for 42nd for career receptions. 

Cotchery was selected by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

Mangini promoted Cotchery to be the No. 2 receiver opposite Laveranues Coles in 2006, calling him the "most outstanding player in our offseason program." Cotchery responded with 82 catches (tied for 16th in the NFL) and 961 yards (22nd), and many were spectacular catches or in important situations. Much of his success comes from his remarkable ability to gain yards after a catch.

The Jets made the playoffs as a wild card team behind Cotchery's strong play in 2006. Cotchery had 100 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Jets' Wild Card Weekend loss to the New England Patriots.

Former Jets head coach Herm Edwards admitted he regretted not playing Cotchery more while he was head coach of the Jets.

Cotchery made 57 catches for 821 yards in 2009. Although he only had three touchdowns, he was a very important player for rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez (sounds a lot like the Hines Ward-Ben Roethlisberger relationship) . 

With the exception of Hines Ward and Mike Wallace (I don't even count Arnaz Battle), the Steelers receivers do not have experienced players wideouts. While Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders had exciting years and have shown tons of potential, I'm not ready to hand over starting duties to them just yet. Cotchery knows what it's like to be a gamer; he makes catches receivers need to make and is a great team influence.  

In many ways, he reminds me of Hines Ward. He has the grit, the hands and the football intelligence to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. I have no former ties to Cotchery and no former infatuation with him. However, after reading up on him and knowing the kind of player he was with the Jets, I am extremely excited to see him in Black and Gold.


Personal Notes on Cotchery:

  • Cotchery was born with six fingers on his left hand. 
  • He is the second youngest out of 13 children. 
  • Cotchery is married to his wife, Mercedes, whom he married a month after being selected by the Jets in 2004. The couple adopted their daughter, Jacey, in 2007.
  • He established the Cotchery Foundation in 2007 to “inspire children to conceive and achieve goals by providing programs and services designed to enhance their futures.”
  • He is a recipient of the Jets' 2007 Marty Lyons Award for community service.
  • He also hosted a one-day Skills & Drills Football Clinic at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, with teammate and fellow Alabama native Kerry Rhodes in 2007.
  • He is also a winner of the Jets' 2006 Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award, which recognizes consistent willingness, cooperation and professionalism in everyday dealings with various departments in organization.
  • Hosts an annual summer football camp for children ages 7–18 at William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ.
  • On April 22, 2009 he participated in NFL's Take a Player to School Day. He got the chance to spend the day with fourth grader at Susan E. Wiley Elementary School, Javier Benitez and his classmates. He conducted an assembly on the importance of health and fitness, hard work and staying in school, and he participated in a physical education class.