AFC North: Derek Moye

PITTSBURGH – Derek Moye spent all of last season on the Steelers' 53-man roster and two of the wide receivers ahead of the Penn State product signed with other teams during the offseason.

Moye
Despite this, it is hard not to wonder if Moye actually lost ground in his bid to make an impact this season. Moye, as it turns out, will have a hard time simply making the team again because of the crowd that the Steelers have at wide receiver.

They signed veterans Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey in March and drafted Clemson’s Martavis Bryant in the fourth round. The Steelers also saw 2013 sixth-round pick Justin Brown, who spent last season on their practice squad, make a significant jump during offseason practices.

So where does all of that leave Moye? Pretty much in the same position as last season when the former undrafted free agent had to play his way onto the 53-man roster.

“That’s the way it is,” Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “He knows that. Each time he gets on the field he gets better. He has a chance.”

The good news for Moye, who caught just two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown last season, is that the competition at wide receiver won’t really start until Monday when the Steelers wear pads for the first time.

Also, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder made the team last season after entering camp as a long shot. There is no reason to think Moye can’t do it again with another strong camp and playing well in the preseason games.

Here are four other players who also need to flash during training camp.

OLB Chris Carter. The Steelers’ lack of depth at outside linebacker gives the 2011 fifth-round draft pick an inside track to making the 53-man roster. But Carter is vulnerable because he played primarily on special teams in three seasons and has yet to record a sack for the Steelers. Carter received praise from linebackers coach Keith Butler during offseason practices. He has to show the Steelers during camp that he can play extensive snaps at outside linebacker in the event of an injury.

TE David Paulson. He has just 13 catches for 153 yards in two seasons and Paulson isn’t going to make the team as a blocking tight end. The 2012 seventh-round pick has to show he can become a bigger part of the passing game as he is a prime candidate to fall victim to a numbers crunch. The Steelers return four tight ends from last season and they added to the position by drafting Rob Blanchflower in the seventh round and signing Eric Waters as an undrafted free agent.

DE Nick Williams. Williams did very little during offseason practices because he was still recovering from a knee injury he sustained almost a year ago. The Steelers like Williams’ potential but the 6-4, 309-pounder needs to get on the field during camp and get as much work as possible at a position that is hard for young players to master. The Steelers, meanwhile, need an end to emerge from a young group that includes Williams, Brian Arnfelt and undrafted free agent Josh Mauro.

P Brad Wing. His talent is undeniable and the Steelers think he has matured since going undrafted out of LSU in 2013 and failing to make the Philadelphia Eagles’ team last season. That he is a lefty helps – coach Mike Tomlin seems to prefer those kinds of punters – but Wing has to beat out veteran Adam Podlesh, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in April. Since Podlesh has a track record in the NFL Wing will have to clearly outplay him in training camp and preseason games to make the team.
PITTSBURGH -- Soft-spoken and humble, Markus Wheaton is in many ways the anti-wide receiver -- or at least the preening, me-me-me player that has become the caricature of the position.

[+] EnlargeMarkus Wheaton
Patrick Semansky/AP PhotoThrough offseason practices, Markus Wheaton appears to be the leading candidate to start at wide receiver for the Steelers.
Far from demanding the ball, Wheaton won’t even say the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting job opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown is his to lose even though he occupies it at the outset of offseason practices.

“There’s a lot of guys chasing that spot and hopefully I can get it first and go from there,” Wheaton said. “They’re pushing all of us to get better, and whoever wants it the most will take it, so I’m going to do what I can to get that spot.”

Such, ahem, bravado, won’t ease the anxiety of Steelers fans who have concerns about a receiving corps that lost two of its top three players from last year and 16 touchdowns alone from Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.

But Wheaton appears ready to emerge in every way except for his decidedly non-cavalier attitude.

The finger injury that required multiple surgeries last season and limited Wheaton to 157 snaps is behind him, he said. Wheaton and fellow wideouts Derek Moye and Justin Brown also spent a week practicing with Ben Roethlisberger in California this offseason, taking the Steelers' quarterback up on his invitation to work on timing and other aspects of the passing game.

With Sanders in Denver -- he signed a three-year deal with the Broncos in March -- Wheaton has a clear path to the field.

And someone has to step up with Antonio Brown certain to see all kinds of extra attention this season.

“I’m excited to see what he can do,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s a guy that wants to prove that he can be a starter.”

Wheaton did not get to show much last season after breaking his right pinkie in several places in the fourth game of the season. The injury, which also damaged a joint, effectively forced Wheaton to redshirt his rookie season, but it did not stop the third-round draft pick from doing everything he could to learn a new offense.

And when the 5-11, 182-pounder had one of his many questions, he could turn to Cotchery or Roethlisberger, whose locker is next to Wheaton’s at the Steelers’ practice facility.

“Being able to sit out last year pretty much helped me,” said Wheaton, who caught six passes for 64 yards in limited action. “I learned a lot of the coverages, the adjustments Ben throws at us, the playbook.”

How much Wheaton can transfer what he has learned to the field will be critical to Roethlisberger developing the kind of trust in him that will allow the Steelers to run their no-huddle offense with the same frequency as in the second half of last season when they won six of eight games.

“We lost two starting wide receivers that knew the no-huddle so well, so we’re going to need the new guys and the young guys to pick it up quick,” Roethlisberger said.
PITTSBURGH -- A day after adding depth at cornerback with the signing of Brice McCain the Steelers could do the same at wide receiver.

Heyward-Bey
Darrius Heyward-Bey, the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft, will visit the Steelers on Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Steelers are only $171,934 under the cap, but hovering near the spending ceiling hasn’t stopped them from filling holes on their roster, and Heyward-Bey has emerged as their latest target.

Heyward-Bey never lived up to enormous expectations in Oakland after the Raiders fell in love with his speed and made him the first wide receiver drafted in 2009. The 6-2, 219-pounder spent four seasons in Oakland before signing with Indianapolis.

Heyward-Bey played in all 16 games last season for the Colts -- he started 11 of them -- and caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown. In five NFL seasons Heyward-Bey has 169 catches for 2,380 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Steelers are expected to take a wide receiver early in the draft but they apparently are interested in adding another veteran to the position as well.

Markus Wheaton is expected to get the first crack at replacing Emmanuel Sanders opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown, but he played just 153 snaps his rookie season and caught six passes for 64 yards.

The Steelers signed Lance Moore to take over as their No. 3 wide receiver following the loss of Jerricho Cotchery to the Panthers and the only other wide receiver on the roster with any NFL experience is Derek Moye.

The 6-5 Moye played 52 snaps last season and caught two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown.
PITTSBURGH -- A number of underclassmen who figure to be high picks have declared for the 2014 NFL draft, and one in particular should intrigue the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Allen Robinson needed just two seasons to rewrite the receiving part of Penn State’s record books, and there is a lot to like about him for a team that might make wide receiver a priority in the draft.

Robinson has been incredibly productive -- he caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards in 2013 despite playing with a true freshman at quarterback and regularly facing double coverage -- and has good size and ball skills. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder is also athletic enough that he could have played basketball at a Division I school had he taken that route.

[+] EnlargeAllen Robinson
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsPenn State's Allen Robinson had 97 catches for 1,432 yards in 2013.
What should really put Robinson on the Steelers’ radar: he could be available when they make their second-round pick.

He has been projected to go anywhere from the first to the third round, and my guess is that Robinson is selected in the second round as I think questions could be raised about his speed -- or at least enough of them to drop him into the second round.

I think the only way the Steelers go offense with the 15th overall pick of the draft is if there is a left tackle prospect they feel they cannot afford to pass on, or if there is a transcendent wide receiver that gives quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the big downfield target he has long coveted.

Other than that, I think the Steelers take a playmaker on defense, whether it is for the back end of their secondary, their linebacking corps, or a nose tackle who fits the prototype more than incumbent Steve McLendon does.

Assuming they don’t take a wide receiver in the first round for the first time since Plaxico Burress in 2000, the Steelers could seriously be in play for one in the second round.

Emmanuel Sanders is, at best, 50-50 to return next season , and if he signs elsewhere the Steelers should bring in a taller wide receiver or give 6-foot-5, 210-pound Derek Moye a serious look there.

There is a lot to like about Robinson, who is already polished as a receiver, but doesn’t turn 21 until next August and still has plenty of upside.

General manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers do extra homework on NFL prospects in their backyard, so they don’t miss on a player who is right in front of them. You can bet Colbert and the Steelers coaches and scouts will take plenty of interest in Robinson, as they should.

Worilds out, Sanders to play

December, 29, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without their leading pass-rusher Sunday against the Cleveland Browns as outside linebacker Jason Worilds is inactive because of an abdominal injury. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is playing despite a sprained knee that knocked him out of the second half of the Packers game last Sunday.

Worilds
The Steelers are dressing an extra wide receiver as insurance as Derek Moye is active.

Sanders is among those who could be playing in their final game for the Steelers today as he will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The Steelers need to beat the Browns and also get wins from the Jets, Bengals and Chiefs to make the playoffs.

In addition to Worilds, who will be replaced at left outside linebacker by Chris Carter, linebacker Terence Garvin, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, cornerback Isaiah Green, defensive Brian Arnfelt, quarterback Landry Jones and center David Snow are inactive for the Steelers.

A steady raining is falling in Pittsburgh, and the grounds crew took the tarp off the field a little before 11 a.m. ET.

Jarvis Jones out for Steelers

December, 22, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – An illness has forced the Pittsburgh Steelers to scratch Jarvis Jones and left them shorthanded at outside linebacker.

Chris Carter will make his first career start at right outside linebacker, and Stevenson Sylvester and possibly Terence Garvin will provide depth at the position. Jason Worilds and Carter are the only outside linebackers who are active for the 4:25 p.m. ET game at Lambeau Field.

There are no other surprises among the Steelers inactives.

They include newly signed outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, wide receiver Derek Moye, cornerback Isaiah Green, center David Snow and quarterback Landry Jones.

Brett Keisel will start at right defensive end after missing most of the last five games with a foot injury. Cortez Allen will start at left cornerback in place of William Gay.

The snow is starting to crank up after a bit of a break.

An overnight snowstorm blanketed the region, and despite tapering off throughout the day it looks like the snow could be a factor in the first meeting between the Steelers and Packers since the 2010 Super Bowl.

Steve McLendon out for Steelers

December, 15, 2013
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PITTSBURGH – There are no surprises among the Pittsburgh Steelers' inactives, though starting nose tackle Steve McLendon joins defensive end Brett Keisel as an injury scratch.

McLendon played last Sunday on a sprained ankle, but he did not practice leading up to tonight’s game against the visiting Bengals.

Al Woods will start at nose tackle, while Ziggy Hood will start in place of Keisel. Rookie defensive end Brian Arnfelt is dressing for his first NFL game after the Steelers signed the Northwestern product off the practice squad on Saturday afternoon.

The healthy scratches for the Steelers include linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, wide receiver Derek Moye, cornerback Isaiah Green, center David Snow and quarterback Landry Jones.

Healthy Steelers ready to tackle Jets

October, 11, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- Health shouldn’t be an issue Sunday when the Steelers try to break into the win column.

Starting left guard Ramon Foster (pectoral) is listed as probable for the 1 p.m. ET game against the Jets after going through a full practice Friday for the third day in a row.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (finger) and tight end Heath Miller are also listed as probable for the game at MetLife Stadium. Coach Mike Tomlin limited Miller in practice Thursday, but he was a full participant in drills Friday.

Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton is the only Steelers player who has been ruled out for Sunday.

Wheaton had surgery on his right pinkie, and he is scheduled to get stitches removed Monday.

Derek Moye will replace Wheaton as the Steelers’ No. 4 wide receiver.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Moye has not dressed the past two games, but he provides Roethlisberger with a tall receiver.

Moye’s only catch this season was a nifty one, and it accounted for the Steelers’ only touchdown in a 20-10 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 16. He reeled in a Roethlisberger pass on a fade pattern and got two feet down just before running out of bounds for a 1-yard touchdown.

The former undrafted free agent is looking forward to getting an opportunity against the Jets.

“I go in day in and day out in practice and prove that I belong here," Moye said. "Obviously the game’s a whole different scenario, so I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to carry over what I’ve been doing in practice.”

Observation deck: Steelers-Panthers

August, 30, 2013
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Some thoughts from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 25-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Thursday's preseason finale:
  • The only way Derek Moye doesn't make the 53-man roster is if the Steelers keep just four wide receivers. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder clearly separated himself from the other receivers vying for a spot behind Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Markus Wheaton. Moye caught two passes for a team-high 55 yards Thursday; he received bonus points for chasing down Josh Norman from behind after the Carolina cornerback intercepted a Landry Jones throw and had nothing but green grass in front of him. Moye's hustle saved a touchdown and the Panthers settled for a field goal.
  • Jones played the entire game and finished with a thud after a great start. The former Oklahoma star looked masterful in directing an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the Steelers' opening possession. Jones looked like the rookie he is after that. He completed just 13 of 32 passes for 149 yards and three interceptions. The last pick came on his final pass of the game and, the Steelers have to hope, the foreseeable future. Wide receiver Justin Brown fell down on the play, but Jones still looked a long way from being NFL-ready. If injuries force Jones -- the No. 3 quarterback -- to play, the Steelers are in trouble anyway.
  • The toughest roster decisions the coaches and front office have to make might come at linebacker. Undrafted rookie Alan Baxter again put consistent pressure on the quarterback, and he will be tough to cut. But do the Steelers like him enough on special teams to keep a fifth outside linebacker? There appear to be at least four solid candidates for two backup spots at inside linebacker, and it probably comes down to special teams when sorting through those players.
  • If veteran Brian Moorman had to beat out Drew Butler, I think the latter hangs on to his job as punter. Neither one stood out during preseason play, and Butler is younger. He is also the incumbent.
  • Felix Jones ran well, gaining a game-high 56 yards on 14 carries and presenting the coaches with a tough decision at running back. Jones is probably the odd man out if the Steelers keep four running backs on their 53-man roster as well as fullback Will Johnson. But the former first-round pick could have convinced Pittsburgh to keep another running back while rookie Le'Veon Bell recovers from a mid-foot sprain.
  • I don't think Curtis Brown is in trouble as far as making the team, but the former third-round pick didn't help himself at Carolina. He was beaten twice for touchdowns by Ted Ginn Jr., who torched the Steelers with 149 receiving yards.
  • Wheaton saw his most extension action of the preseason, and the rookie third-round draft pick produced mixed results. He dropped three passes, including one that Jones put right on his hands. But Wheaton also showed why the Steelers are so high on him. He blew past a Panthers defensive back in the first half and would have caught a long touchdown pass had Jones not put too much air under the ball.
  • I know fans were screaming when Reggie Dunn fielded a punt inside the Steelers' 5-yard line and got tackled for a safety after he went backward while trying to reverse field. But Dunn isn't going to make the team anyway, and the undrafted rookie was just trying to make a play. The Steelers were intrigued by his speed, but one thing worked against Dunn from the start: the frequency of touchbacks in the NFL has de-emphasized kickoff returners.
  • What will the 53-man roster look like? I will take a shot at projecting it Friday in a post that will be up before noon. I expect the Steelers to make some cuts Friday afternoon, and they could do as they did in 2011, when they made the majority of their roster moves a day before the 53-man rosters had to be finalized.

Baron Batch was bad fit for Steelers

August, 26, 2013
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Le'Veon Bell’s foot injury probably cost third-year running back Baron Batch any chance of making the Steelers. Batch was among the players cut Sunday as the Steelers trimmed their roster to 75 players, and he was simply a luxury the team couldn’t afford with its running game in such flux.

You can win with players like Baron Batch. He is excellent on special teams and is a more than willing and able blocker, especially when it comes to blitzing linebackers. The former seventh-round pick does all of the little things well and has a heart the size of his native Texas.

Batch would be an ideal fourth running back on a team that has a feature back since he could play primarily on special teams and provide injury insurance. But he wasn’t a good fit on a team that will go with a running back by committee -– at least until Bell is healthy and able to fill the role of feature back.

Releasing Batch before the final cut might have come as a surprise to some Steelers fans. But it is probably a measure of how highly the Steelers think of Batch, as a person and a professional. The timing of his release gives Batch a chance to catch on somewhere else and get a couple of days to impress his new team.

The release of Stevenson Sylvester, the other veteran cut on Sunday, leaves the Steelers with very little experience behind Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote at inside linebacker.

It all but assures Marshall McFadden and rookie Vince Williams, a sixth-round pick last April, of making the 53-man roster.

The only draft pick right now that won’t make the 53-man roster is seventh-rounder Nick Williams, who has been shut down by a knee injury. The Steelers liked enough of what they saw from Williams, a defensive end, that they put him on the reserve/injured list instead of the waived/injured list.

Cornerback Terry Hawthorne (fifth round) and wide receiver Justin Brown (sixth round) are battling for roster spots, and I think Hawthorne makes the team, but Brown might have too much to overcome -- namely his former Penn State teammate Derek Moye and the real possibility that the Steelers only keep four wide receivers.

Moye appears to have separated himself among the wide receivers who aren't a lock to make the team. But he could get caught in a numbers cruch if the Steelers have to carry an extra tight end or running back because of injuries.

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