While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.
Question: Does Lance Moore deserve to stick around for the second half of his contract?
Going back to the early days of the 2014 offseason, the Steelers were fully bracing for the loss of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, believing that they had, hopefully, sufficiently insulated themselves with the drafting of Markus Wheaton in the third round the year before.
What they weren’t necessarily counting on was that veteran Jerricho Cotchery would also walk in free agency after capitalizing on an unexpectedly productive season in which he caught a career-high 10 touchdown passes.
Suddenly the front office had to scramble to find a veteran alternative, and they believe they found one in the form of Lance Moore, who had been phased out in New Orleans but could presumably still be a productive and reliable wide receiver.
That never really developed in Pittsburgh in spite of early reports of he and Ben Roethlisberger evidently being in sync with one another. Instead of Moore in the slot, it was Justin Brown, with Moore sitting out the first two games injured.
Then, once Martavis Bryant was up to speed, it was hard for Moore to find many significant snaps. Throughout the entire season, he never caught more than two passes in a game, nor more than 33 yards, though he did catch two touchdowns. By season’s end, he was even a healthy scratch in the Steelers’ playoff game.
But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t worth the investment, nor that he should be thrown out with the bath water just because he was passed over on the depth chart. After all, the same thing happened to Cotchery. One injury could put him in a critical position in the offense, after all.
Wheaton and Bryant are still quite young, and could continue to benefit from the elder Moore’s knowledge of his craft. Or, the offense could simply better utilize him within the system and offer him more playing time to allow him to produce and earn his salary.