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Steelers notebook: Search continues for reserve running back

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By Alan Robinson
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 7:18 p.m.
 

ORLANDO, Fla. — LeGarrette Blount is visiting Pittsburgh on Friday, and Maurice Jones-Drew remains on the market.

As a result, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is hoping to land an experienced running back to play behind Le'Veon Bell, perhaps by the end of the week.

“I'm optimistic, certainly,” Tomlin said Tuesday at the annual league meetings. “We're going to continue to work the system, I think, until we get what it is we feel we need.”

Bell is the only running back on the roster with NFL carries.

Heyward could cash in

The Steelers must decide by May 3 whether to tack another season onto defensive end Cam Heyward's contract, which runs through 2014.

Adding a fifth year onto a rookie-level contract is permitted under the 2011 labor agreement. But it would cost the Steelers a guaranteed $8.5 million or so — the same amount as a transition player at Heyward's position.

That seems highly unlikely, and Tomlin said, “That's down the line for us.”

Moore's contract

Newly signed wide receiver Lance Moore's two-year contract is worth $3 million and includes a $645,000 signing bonus and salaries of $855,000 and $1.5 million.

That's $2 million less than Jerricho Cotchery's $5 million, two-year deal with Carolina that guarantees him $2.25 million and has three extra, voidable seasons.

Seeing the Steelers' six Lombardi trophies on display last week helped convince Moore to sign.

Moving Moats

The Steelers will “sort out” during their offseason workouts and training camp whether newly signed Arthur Moats will be used mostly as an outside or inside linebacker, Tomlin said.

Moats played both positions last year in Buffalo's hybrid 3-4 defense.

“He's proven to be capable of both, and we're going to see what's best for us,” Tomlin said.

Harrison's status

The Steelers aren't saying whether Moats' signing might preclude bringing back outside linebacker James Harrison, who is willing to return in a backup role.

“We appreciated what James did for us when we did business. But … he is a free agent, and I'm not going to comment on that (a possible return),” Tomlin said. “We'll see what unfolds.”

Wheaton's opportunity

After losing Emmanuel Sanders and Cotchery during free agency, the Steelers remain thin at wide receiver even after signing Moore.

They're expected to go after a wideout in the draft, but Tomlin said they already possess a potentially productive receiver in 2013 third-round pick Markus Wheaton. His rookie season was all but erased by multiple broken fingers.

“He has to stay healthy,” Tomlin said. “I look forward to him taking a significant step for us — and we need him to.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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