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Steelers' Cotchery showing similarity to old reliable Hines Ward - NFL on Astini News

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians first used this adjective to describe free-agent wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery(notes): grimy.

In the parlance of the Pittsburgh franchise, it was a term of endearment.

And, according to Cotchery, it was accurately applied. That's but one sign the former Jets receiver hasn't had to work too hard to fit in with the Steelers.

"My game isn't cute," Cotchery said. "It's just tough football. Try to keep the chains moving. Try to make plays for the quarterback."

The other signs he'll be a catch for the Steelers could be considered more tangible. Cotchery made a couple such plays in the Steelers' 24-14 preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 18, his Steelers' debut.

One was good for a 29-yard completion on third-and-24. The other went for a 20-yard touchdown on which Cotchery was able to haul in a fastball from quarterback Byron Leftwich(notes) despite the presence of a defensive back draped across Cotchery's back.

The catches were examples of what the Steelers expect from Cotchery, what they believe he can add to an already talented wide receiving corps that includes home-run hitter Mike Wallace(notes), veteran Hines Ward(notes) and emerging second-year pros Emmanuel Sanders(notes) and Antonio Brown(notes).

Arians stressed that it would be up to Cotchery to carve out a role for himself based on what he can show the coaching staff in the days leading up to the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at Baltimore.

The hope is that Cotchery will do for the Steelers what Arians saw Cotchery do during his eight seasons with the New York Jets. That would be establishing himself as a reliable threat out of the slot first and foremost.

The Steelers already have such a player in Ward, who is counted upon to make catches in traffic, to make plays that have to be made on third downs and in the red zone, to take a pounding when necessary and even to dish one out when possible in a crowd.

"We need two of those," Arians said.

Cotchery's first appearance in a Steelers uniform provided encouraging returns along those lines.

"He's a veteran, man," Leftwich said. "When guys have played a lot of football it shows."

It showed on Cotchery's receptions against the Eagles, and on a 22-yard catch that was wiped out by a holding penalty and preceded by one snap the 29-yard hookup between Leftwich and Cotchery that converted the third-and-24.

"He can position his body," Leftwich said. "He gave me an opportunity to make that throw on that touchdown by positioning his body. That way, hey, I'm going to throw the ball through his numbers at that point and the defender couldn't do anything. That was just the way he positioned himself to be able to allow himself to make that play.

"That's what I mean I say an old veteran guy who has been around and played a lot of football and knows how to get open. He made my job a lot easier."

Cotchery did so by doing what he does, before and after the snap.

"Coming into the game communication was one of the things (head) coach (Mike) Tomlin talked about," Cotchery said. "Byron had been talking to me on the sideline and in the huddle, just telling me what he expects on different coverages and all of those things. The coverage we got at that particular time (on what became the 20-yard touchdown), we were both on the same page.

"He banged it in there and I was able to make a play for him."

Off the field Cotchery's mere presence, meanwhile, has made the wide receivers' meeting room a "hot" one.

And that's the way wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery wants it.

"I like the room to be 'hot' from the standpoint, I like everyone looking over their shoulder," Montgomery said. "I want everyone to feel the next man breathing down their throat.

"It makes the competition in the room go to a higher level. No one can take a play or a day off because they know the room is exceptionally hot."

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