Cotchery Big, On & Off Field

Jerricho Cotchery after TD (Shamus/Getty Images)

Jerricho Cotchery has been a steadying force inside the Steelers' locker room, and now he's rejuvenated on the field. Here's why:

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers were reportedly "shell-shocked" after losing Maurkice Pouncey in the opener, and then a week later were in "total panic mode" after falling to 0-2.

Total chaos had reigned.

Or had it?

"I've been around total chaos," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said with a laugh. "So --."

Cotchery tried to continue talking, but could only continue laughing.

He stopped chuckling and chortling long enough to talk about his experience.

"Total chaos is losing games," he said, "and you don't just have one story flying around, you have multiple stories that are flying around, and guys can't stop talking about it. They talk about it in the locker room, they talk about it around the lunch table, and things of that nature. That's chaos that enters the room, and everybody is on everybody's mind, you know what I'm saying? But I haven't seen that here."

Not even at 0-4?

"Nah," he said. "No, guys were just like, 'We've got to work. We've got to get better.' That's been the approach even with the 0-4 start, even after getting blown out at New England a few weeks back. That has always been the approach: 'We need to get better.' Coach (Mike) Tomlin does a great job of keeping our heads where it should be in our approach to winning football games."

Since the 0-4 start, the Steelers have won four of six and their record is 4-6 with a critical game Sunday at 4-6 Cleveland.

It's clear the Steelers still have problems, but it's also clear that they've stabilized themselves.

Cotchery, a 10th-year veteran who immediately took to the way the Steelers went about their business when he arrived from the New York Jets in 2011, is part of the reason.

Cotchery caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown last Sunday in the win over the Detroit Lions. His 20-yard touchdown catch with 2:29 remaining cemented the win.

It was the first time in his career that he registered at least one touchdown catch in three straight games. In fact, he has five touchdowns in the last three games, and his seven this season are a career high.

The team's No. 3 receiver, Cotchery has started only two games this season but he has 34 receptions for 503 yards and the seven touchdowns. He's on pace for 60 receptions, 894 yards and 12 touchdowns. It would be his best season since 2008.

Could he have possibly envisioned such a season after catching just 16 and 17 passes in his two previous seasons with the Steelers?

"You envision a lot of things when you're playing with No. 7," he said of Ben Roethlisberger. "I know a lot of receivers around the league and they know that when he moves around in the pocket there's going to be a lot of space. He gives his receivers a chance. That's what receivers love. So you know there's going to be a lot of opportunities with him. That's what I've been getting. That's why you see the touchdowns what they are."

Two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills, Cotchery caught a five-yard touchdown pass after feigning a block. He called it a "fall-asleep fade."

Against the Lions, Cotchery again feigned a block as Roethlisberger faked a screen pass behind him and then floated a 20-yard pass into the end zone to the wide-open Cotchery for another touchdown.

Was that a "fall-asleep fade" as well?

"All of my routes are fall-asleep routes," he said with a laugh. "But we run a ton of screens to the receivers, backs, tight ends, so it was just a fade screen at that moment. It's something we can put on tape and teams have to be ready for and it keeps our screen game going."

The screen game has been a staple of the Steelers' offense since the early days of Bruce Arians as coordinator. But Todd Haley has further emphasized the philosophy. And for the past several weeks, Haley has told reporters that the offense is close to blossoming.

Did it finally blossom in the 37-point eruption against the Lions?

"Coach Haley," Cotchery said, "does a great job of identifying the stuff and showing us on tape how close we are when it comes to finishing blocks, when it comes to making plays that may be difficult plays to make, that we're close 'if you make that play it creates a lot of momentum for us.' We saw it even in the losses, that we were growing and we were growing in the right direction.

"We just want to keep it going in the right direction. It's been paying off for a few weeks now, but we don't have any time to pat ourselves on the back. We have to continue to get better as an offense and make sure we're scoring touchdowns in the red zone and putting points on the board for this team."

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