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Mike Tomlin praises receiver Jerricho Cotchery as player, leader

By Joseph Person
jperson@charlotteobserver.com
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Justin K. Aller - Getty Images
Jerricho Cotchery #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers dives for the pylon scoring a nine yard touchdown against Leon McFadden #29 of the Cleveland Browns during the game on December 29, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

ORLANDO There's been a lot of talk about "diva" receivers the past couple of weeks.

Philadelphia is not finding any trade partners for wideout DeSean Jackson, who carries a $10.5 million price tag this year and a reputation of being high-maintenance.

The Panthers were willing to cut ties with Steve Smith, the franchise's all-time receiving leader, in part because general manager Dave Gettleman viewed him as a distraction.

On Tuesday morning at the AFC coaches breakfast at the owners meetings, this was Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin's first response to a question about new Panthers and former Steelers wideout Jerricho Cotchery:

"He's not low-maintenance," Tomlin said. "He's no-maintenance."

Tomlin praised Cotchery, the former N.C. State wideout who signed a two-year deal with the Panthers last week, as "a good football player, but better than that a good man."

At another table 10 yards away in a banquet room at the Ritz-Carlton, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said he had no concerns about Smith's attitude after the Ravens signed him to a three-year deal.

"Steve is going to be a leader. I love where he's at. What he was telling me about his plans for enhancing our team and our organization were just exactly the things that I wanted to hear and expected to hear," Harbaugh said.

"He's got a plan. He understands our culture to a degree and I think he sees where he fits in as a veteran coming into the program, as opposed to the guy that's been there all the years. I'm pretty excited about it."

While Smith's yards-per-catch average fell by nearly 5 yards last season to 11.6 yards per reception, Harbaugh believes the 34-year-old Smith can still get open deep.

"I saw him catch the deep balls. So when he had a chance, when he was running a (go) route or a (post) route, and he was even with the defender, he was leaving (him) still," Harbaugh said. "He was able to accelerate and go make the catch. If he does it, that means he can still do it. And that's all we really needed to see."

Cotchery, 31, developed as Ben Roethlisberger's favorite red-zone target last season when he caught a career-high 21 touchdowns. But Tomlin said Cotchery can fill a number of receiving roles.

"Jerricho's the type of guy that he's going to be what you need him to be," Tomlin said. "He's a pro."

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