Morgan could put jolt in receiving corps
Steelers Coach Bill Cowher voiced concerns about passing game during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, which might explain why he added a potential upgrade in former Dallas Cowboys wideout Quincy Morgan hours later.
A 2001 second-round draft pick (33rd overall) from Kansas State, Morgan took the roster spot of four-year veteran Lee Mays, who'd been hampered by a hamstring injury and was placed on the waived/injured list. He was scheduled to make $380,000 this season.
The Steelers, who open against Tennessee at Heinz Field on Sunday, are looking to fortify a receiving corps that struggled in the preseason and features only one proven commodity in veteran Hines Ward.
Morgan, who has 155 career catches for 2,316 yards (14.9 per reception) with 15 touchdowns in four seasons, signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum $540,000.
He could push starting split end Antwaan Randle El (43 catches for 601 yards with three touchdowns last season) and slot man Cedrick Wilson (47 for 641 with three scores) for playing time. He had 31 catches for 404 yards with three touchdowns split between the Cleveland Browns and Cowboys last season.
Morgan joined the Cowboys midway through last season in a deal that sent Antonio Bryant to Cleveland, where Morgan had spent his first three-plus NFL seasons.
On Monday, the Cowboys released Morgan to make room for free-agent Peerless Price. Morgan became disillusioned with his situation in Dallas after getting beaten out for the third receiver spot by 2004 seventh-round pick Patrick Crayton.
He recently told the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas, that he was ready for a change of scenery.
"If I can get a chance to go somewhere else and play and make plays that will be cool," said Morgan, 27. "I'm in a bad situation right now. It's a situation that I've never been in in my life -- going from a starter and being the man in Cleveland for a while and coming here and being a nobody."
He said off-the-field distractions involving friends and family haven't helped his cause. He also struggled to make plays in the preseason, dropping a potential touchdown pass and failing to hold on to a couple of other balls thrown his way.
Agent Ty Collins said a new opportunity was needed for his client, who had a career year in 2002 with 56 receptions for 964 yards (17.2 per catch) with seven touchdowns.
"We thought this was the best fit for Quincy, especially since he played against the Steelers while he was in Cleveland and we have a great relationship with the organization, having just signed (nose tackle) Casey Hampton to a new deal," Collins said. "It seemed like they needed help at the wide receiver spot, and as far as we were concerned, we felt Quincy could help them there."
Collins said Morgan, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, had offers from the Broncos, Titans and Buccaneers.
"The Steelers have done good by us," Collins said.
Morgan is a bigger target than Ward, 6-foot, Randle El, 5-10, and Wilson, 5-10, and his numbers from 2002 surpass anything Randle El and Wilson have done in their careers.
He also has more career starts (53) than Wilson (19) and Randle El (8).
His specialty is the deep ball, having caught passes that covered 53, 46, 29 and 21 yards last season. He can also return kicks, with an average of 24.3 per return on 11 career kickoffs.
Cowher was candid when asked about his offense yesterday.
"Would I have liked to see us be more in synch in the passing game• Yes," he said. "That's the one thing that I would come out of the preseason saying I wish we had done better. But we are what we are. That's really the only true element that I am, if you want to use the words, 'concerned' or 'worried about,' that's it."
In the preseason, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the first-team offense failed to score a touchdown. And the top three wideouts managed just 10 catches between them.
Statistically speakingQuincy Morgan's numbers:
Yr - Team - Rec. - Yds. - TDs - Avg.
2001 - Browns - 30 - 432 - 2 - 14.4
2002 - Browns - 56 - 964 - 7 - 17.2
2003 - Browns - 38 - 516 - 3 - 13.6
2004 - Browns - 9 - 144 - 3 - 16.0
*2004 - Cowboys - 22 - 260 - 0 - 11.8
Career - 155 - 2,316 - 15 - 14.9
*Traded Oct. 19, 2004