Lance Moore was supposed to be a big part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense this season after the team signed him to a two-year, $3 million contract. Lance Moore has 11 catches in the nine games he’s played, although he is in a four-way tie for third on the team with two touchdown receptions.
It didn’t help that the veteran receiver suffered a hamstring injury during the preseason that lingered into the regular season, causing him to miss two games, but the reality is that that isn’t an explanation for why he finds himself in such a reduced role.
It’s a role that was expected to be much bigger with the Steelers losing both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, their number two and number three receivers from a year ago, in free agency, who between them accounted for 16 touchdown receptions.
As a matter of fact, Moore finds himself now in the same position that Cotchery was four years ago when he first signed with the Steelers: unpredictably buried under a depth chart that includes a number of young receivers who excite the coaching staff.
At that time, the Steelers had a Hines Ward at the end of his career and a trio of young receivers entering their second or third year in the ‘Young Money’ crew. There were still lots of unanswered questions about them, and Cotchery was brought in to fill whatever role was necessary.
The role of slot receiver proved unnecessary as Antonio Brown emerged in that role in year two, while Sanders also kept pace ahead of him, despite being lapped by his draft mate.
Cotchery only logged about 550 snaps combined in his first two years with the Steelers as the young trio of wideouts emerged, but when Wallace left in free agency, there was a vacancy to fill. All of a sudden, Cotchery was a go-to target in stretches for Ben Roethlisberger, and he wound up with a career-high 10 touchdown receptions, which in part helped lead him to a new contract with the Carolina Panthers in the spring.
This year, the Steelers entered the season once again with a lot of uncertainty. They were counting on a second-year receiver with six receptions in Markus Wheaton to take over a starting job, but the fallback option was Moore.
Instead, Justin Brown took most of Moore’s playing time in the slot during the early portions of the season, that is until Martavis Bryant was up to speed. And now Roethlisberger has a new trio of young receivers in Brown (still just 26), Wheaton, and Bryant, with Moore an afterthought—for now.
As Cotchery showed us, having a veteran player in reserve to be able to fall back on in times of need can be highly valuable, especially when it comes to filling in for injuries to key players. Moore has only logged 20 or more snaps in three games this year, but we should remember not to equate his playing time on the field with his potential contributions in a bigger role.