Steelers' Moore brings a lot to team offense
Mewelde Moore took the handoff from Ben Roethlisberger, pulled up and fired a bullet to Heath Miller in the back of the end zone Sunday night.
A more conventional play Moore made earlier in the drive led to his first NFL touchdown pass. On third-and-4 from the Steelers' 36, Moore caught a 5-yard pass from Roethlisberger to keep the drive alive — one he capped with the throw that gave the Steelers their final touchdown in a 38-28 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Players who specialize in shaking free of linebackers and defensive backs to catch critical third-down passes and also pick up blitzers when they stay in the backfield to block are becoming rarer.
But even with roles in the backfield becoming increasingly blurred — more teams are employing rotations with interchangeable players — the third-down back will never become an endangered species. The reason: good ones such as Moore are simply too valuable.
"That's a very special cat," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "I think of the great ones like a Ronnie Harmon, Todd McNair, and I think 'Mo' has really put himself in that situation."
Moore and players of his ilk are difficult to defend because they often have deceptive power as well as the speed and shiftiness to excel in open space. They also have reliable enough hands for quarterbacks to dump the ball off to them if they are under duress or don't have anyone open downfield.
"It creates a list of matchup (problems), because who are you going to put on them?" Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith said of third-down backs. "You've got a guy that's almost like a wide receiver. You don't want a (line)backer or D-lineman on him, but if you put a (defensive back) on him, he's bigger than him. You have to account for them more than you would anybody else."
The Steelers recently found that out the hard way.
With the Cincinnati Bengals facing a fourth-and-10 late in a Sept. 27 game against the Steelers, quarterback Carson Palmer dumped the ball off to Brian Leonard over the middle.
Leonard, who had gotten a step on Pro Bowl linebacker James Farrior, picked up 5 more yards that helped the Bengals get a first down. The play set up Carson Palmer's game-winning touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell.
Plays such as the one Leonard turned in are what have made Kevin Faulk an important part of the New England Patriots' offense.
Faulk, in his 11th season, has never put up gaudy numbers. But, he has over 3,000 career yards both as a rusher and receiver, and no one appreciates him more than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"He's exactly what you're looking for, and there's a reason why he's the longest-tenured Patriot on our team," Brady said of Faulk. "He's got incredible hands; he's got incredible awareness. If he gets out in a route, I know he's going to be open."
Like Faulk, Moore is from Louisiana.
He met Faulk when he starred at Tulane and the Patriots played in the 2001 Super Bowl in New Orleans.
These days, Moore does a pretty good imitation of Faulk, as he also is a multifaceted threat, particularly when serving as a third-down back.
"It's not a glorified position, but we enjoy what we do," said Moore, who signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in 2008. "We have a niche, and we take that little niche and run with it."Additional Information:
Third-down backs are valuable, if at times overlooked, parts of NFL offenses. Here are five who have thrived in that role:
Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- Set the standard for third-down backs, and the 11th-year veteran shows no signs of slowing down.
Brian Leonard, Bengals -- Quickly becoming a valued security blanket for quarterback Carson Palmer in Cincinnati.
Mewelde Moore, Steelers -- Also stood out when pressed into action as a start because of injuries.
Jerious Norwood, Falcons -- Had more than 800 combined rushing and receiving yards in 2008.
Chester Taylor -- Arrival of Adrian Peterson in Minnesota changed his role, and Taylor now excels at it.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers hoping that youth movement breathes life into team
- Steelers notebook: Team hasn’t called on Keisel, Harrison yet
- Inside the ropes: Shazier shows off speed
- Steelers linebacker Spence confident he can avoid injury setbacks
- GM Colbert expects Roethlisberger to end career with Steelers
- Steelers hope group of low-budget cornerbacks can deliver
- Roethlisberger ‘prays’ he can stay with Steelers when deal expires
- Steelers WR Wheaton wants to produce after injury-plagued rookie year
- Inside the ropes: Roethlisberger may have his big receiver
- Steelers notebook: Ben believes rookie WR Bryant can contribute
- Inside the ropes: Speedy rookie Archer dazzles at 1st training camp practice