Over the course of the first two weeks of the 2014 regular season, wide receiver Justin Brown has logged 112 of a possible 132 snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a year after spending all of his rookie season on the practice squad.
For his efforts, he’s caught four of eight targets for 44 yards, including one drop and a fumble in the last game, during which he caught one pass for six yards.
His extensive playing time has come as a result of a groin injury suffered by Lance Moore, a veteran slot receiver that the Steelers signed during free agency this offseason in order to replace the departing Jerricho Cotchery.
Moore quietly sat out the final two preseason games nursing what was then an undiagnosed injury.
It wasn’t particularly surprising that he sat out the season opener after it was announced that he was dealing with a groin injury, and given that the second game came just a few days later on a short week, it’s understandable that he would have missed both.
But he has had a long break now, and he did participate in practice yesterday.
While Moore said after practice that he feels better than he has in weeks, he also cautioned patience, saying that doesn’t “want to put the cart before the horse”, as there’s still “a long week of practice coming up” before he can declare himself ready.
Fortunately for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, the former New Orleans Saints wide receiver also talked about the fact that he is a visual learner, and that it has been an informative experience being able to watch the offense operate from the sidelines through the first two weeks of the season.
It has cued him in to what kind of looks the opposing defenses have been giving the Steelers 11 personnel, which is what the team has been running predominantly all offseason.
The three-receiver set should get a boost with Moore’s return, as he has proven to be among the most reliable and consistent slot receivers in the league during his time with Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Still, it won’t be surprising at all if we see Moore and Brown split time in the slot. After all, the two have a 6” height difference, each of which could be advantageous in different scenarios.
In fact, Brown could learn a lot about being a slot receiver in this league from Moore, who has done it about as well as anybody over the course of the past decade.
While Moore is perhaps in the twilight of his career, Brown is hoping to be just getting his off the ground now, and the veteran would be a good instructor to look up to—no pun intended.