Pittsburgh Steelers: Lance Moore

PITTSBURGH -- Wide receiver Lance Moore and defensive tackle Steve McLendon were full participants in practice on Wednesday and each is on track to play Sunday night in Carolina.

Moore, who missed the Pittsburgh Steelers' first two games because of a nagging groin injury, has practiced both days this week.

The ninth-year veteran will make his Steelers debut against the 2-0 Panthers barring a setback.

McLendon, who left the Steelers’ 26-6 loss to the Ravens last Thursday with a shoulder injury, also should play in Carolina unless he experiences a setback.

Rookie running back Dri Archer (ankle) and left guard Ramon Foster (ankle) were limited in practice. Archer did not play against the Ravens because of a sprained ankle.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not mention Foster when he gave an injury update Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

Defensive end Brett Keisel, strong safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller were also given practice off by Tomlin.

A number of Panthers players didn’t practice on Wednesday, including linebacker Thomas Davis (hip), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (back), running back DeAngelo Williams (thigh) and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee).

Defensive end Greg Hardy did not practice and the Panthers are expected to take Hardy off the 53-man roster and place him on the NFL’s exempt list following a bench conviction for assaulting his former girlfriend.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers came out of a typical hard-hitting game against the Baltimore Ravens in pretty good shape from an injury standpoint.

Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon is the only player who sustained an injury that could keep him out of the Steelers’ Sunday night game against Carolina. McLendon hurt his shoulder and coach Mike Tomlin said he is questionable to play against the 2-0 Panthers.

Rookie running back Dri Archer also is questionable after missing the Ravens game because of a sprained ankle.

McLendon and Archer each practiced on a limited basis on Monday.

Wide receiver Lance Moore was a full participant in practice on Monday after missing the first two games because of a groin injury. The ninth-year veteran is optimistic that he will play against the Panthers, though Tomlin said a lot will depend on how Moore’s body responds to practicing this week.

“We’ll watch his response to yesterday’s work and formulate a plan,” Tomlin said. “Obviously Lance is a guy who’s capable of helping us. He knows how to play football. When we get him back out there we expect him to be a positive contributor to our efforts.”

Tomlin did not mention quarterback Ben Roethlisberger among the Steelers' injured players. But Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show that he is still “very sore” after getting drilled in the chest last Thursday night by Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

“That was a significant shot that comes with the territory that he’s embraced over the years,” Tomlin said of his quarterback.

Roethlisberger struggled with his accuracy in the Steelers’ 26-6 loss to the Ravens but Tomlin brushed off a question about whether the early hit affected Roethlisberger’s play.

“He’s not going to make excuses and I’m not going to either," the eighth-year coach said. "He’s capable of playing better and we look forward to working hard so that it occurs this weekend.”
PITTSBURGH -- An offense that hasn’t scored a touchdown in six consecutive quarters could get a boost Sunday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Carolina Panthers.

Lance Moore said he practiced Monday, and the veteran wide receiver is optimistic he will be able to play in his first game in more than a month.

“I felt better today than I have in a number of weeks,” said Moore, who has been hampered by a nagging groin injury. “That’s encouraging and I’m looking forward to continuing getting better. Hopefully I’ll feel better throughout the week and hopefully be ready to go on Sunday. That’s my goal.”

Moore's return would help an offense that has struggled since putting up 27 points in the first half of a season-opening win against the Browns.

Moore gives the Steelers an experienced No. 3 wide receiver, something they haven’t had with first-year player Justin Brown the last two games. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Moore is just two seasons removed from catching 65 passes for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns for the Saints, and he could really help the Steelers as their slot receiver.

Moore has not played in a game since the Steelers’ second preseason contest Aug. 16 because of the groin injury that has tested the ninth-year veteran’s patience.

“It just takes time, and the days I was thinking it was ready I kind of got out there and did a little bit and it just wasn’t ready yet,” Moore said. “It was kind of one of those thing where you can continue to do that and make it worse or you can sit out a little bit longer and hopefully it heals up on his own.”

Dri Archer is hoping to join Moore in returning to the field, though the rookie running back/wide receiver is probably questionable at best for the 8:30 p.m. ET game against the Panthers.

Archer, who didn’t play last week against the Ravens because of a sprained ankle and a knee injury, said he practiced Monday on a limited basis after getting treatment at Steelers headquarters over the weekend.

“I did a little bit, just getting a test of how it feels,” Archer said following the Steelers’ first practice of the week. “I’m hoping (to play against the Panthers). It’s feeling a little better, and I’m just taking it day by day and getting more treatment.”
PITTSBURGH -- An unexpected spike in the salary cap allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to shop aggressively -- at least for them -- during NFL free agency.

They appeared to improve themselves with the signings of a handful of outside free agents. But two games into the season the Steelers have not gotten the return they had hoped for from those investments.

Here is a look at the free agents the Steelers signed, and all analysis is prefaced with the caveat that it is way too early to draw any sweeping conclusions.

Also, punter Adam Podlesh did not report to training camp because of a family issue. That certainly takes priority over football, so he is not included in this look at the free agents that Steelers signed.

S Mike Mitchell: The Steelers brought in the sixth-year veteran to give them a playmaker on the back end of their defense, but so far Mitchell has yet to impress. Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Steelers, has 12 tackles but most of those have come downfield. He took a bad angle on Ravens running back Justin Forsett's 41-yard run last Thursday night, the longest play in the game, and Mitchell has yet to break up a pass much less intercept one. He has to play much better for the Steelers' defense to right itself after a shaky start.

RB LeGarrette Blount: The former Patriot hasn't gotten on the field much in large part because Le'Veon Bell has been the Steelers' best player through the season's first two weeks. Blount, who signed a two-year, $3.85 million contract, has rushed for just 14 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Blount's carries will be limited if Bell keeps playing so well, but the 6-foot, 250-pounder is still nice injury insurance at running back. And the Steelers are going to need him at some point this season.

DE Cam Thomas: The 170 rushing yards per game that the Steelers have yielded is a direct reflection of Thomas' inability to hold his ground whether the former Charger is playing defensive end or nose tackle. That Thomas, who signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers, lost his starting job at nose tackle midway through last season in San Diego is looking like a red flag that shouldn't have been ignored. The player known as "Baby Zilla" has six tackles and a quarterback pressure but has to be more physical.

WR Lance Moore: The former Saint has yet to play a snap after signing a two-year, $3.5 million contract. Moore has been hampered by a nagging groin injury, and the Steelers really need him to get healthy and give them a reliable No. 3 wide receiver. Moore's career suggests the ninth-year veteran could thrive working the middle of the field -- and benefiting from the extra attention teams pay to Pro Bowler Antonio Brown and the emerging Markus Wheaton.

CB Brice McCain: The former Houston Texan signed a veteran's minimum contract ($635,000 salary cap hit for one season) with the Steelers to provide depth and play special teams. McCain missed the season opener because of a groin injury and he only played special teams last Thursday in the Steelers' 26-6 loss to the Ravens.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey: The veteran speedster played his way onto the roster but has yet to make a catch. I'm a little surprised Heyward-Bey, who signed a veteran's minimum contract, didn't get more snaps at wide receiver with Moore out. If the first two games are any indication, Heyward-Bey will play primarily on special teams, which means the Steelers could look to rookie Martavis Bryant to provide a deep threat now that he is healthy.
This is the second post that compares this season's Pittsburgh Steelers team to the 2013 edition through the first two games. Here is a look at some major statistical offensive categories.

Points per game:
2013: 9.8
2014: 16.5

Rushing offense
2013: 38.0 (yards per game)
2014: 113.0

Passing offense
2013: 198.5
2014: 303.5

Total offense
2013: 236.5
2014: 416.5

Third-down conversion rate
2013: 28.0
2014: 41.7

2013: 4
2014: 4

Sacks allowed
2013: 7
2014: 5

Analysis: The Steelers have been better in almost all of the major statistical categories compared to last season and running back Le'Veon Bell is the biggest reason for that. The Steelers had no running game through the first three weeks of 2013 when Bell was out with a sprained foot, and he has been among the most productive running backs in the NFL through the first 15 games of his career. … The Steelers have clearly moved the ball through the first two games of the season but they have stopped themselves as much as the opposing defenses have because of penalties and turnovers. They have to clean that up. Obviously. ... I think the offense is going to be fine and I love the balance the Steelers should have assuming Bell stays healthy. How important is a balanced offense to the Steelers? They are 10-3 since 2012 when they rush for at least 1o0 yards in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Steelers are 7-14 when they rush for less than 100 yards during that span. ... The return of Lance Moore, who has yet to play in a game because of a groin injury, will be huge. Getting Dri Archer back too from a sprained ankle will also help. Archer’s speed and versatility allow the Steelers to diversify their formations and force opposing defenses to account for the rookie running back/wide receiver.
Here is the latest Pittsburgh Steelers' mailbag. If you have a question for future mailbags please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go ...

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I think it's personnel more than anything. Not to give Dick LeBeau a pass, because either opposing teams have figured him out or he has to adjust his schemes to fit his players. I refuse to believe the game has passed him by, but LeBeau is arguably facing his greatest challenge as the Steelers' defensive coordinator, because I'm not sure how much talent he has with which to work. Name the difference-makers on the Steelers' defense. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons and maybe defensive Cameron Heyward qualify. Linebacker Ryan Shazier will become one, but he is going through the typical rookie growing pains right now. The biggest problem the Steelers have defensively right now is they are not winning up front. They have to fix that and work from there. And last I checked, LeBeau, a Hall of Fame cornerback, hasn't made a tackle in decades. The Steelers, as a whole, have to do a better job of tackling, and that is incumbent upon the players.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: The Steelers used a silent snap count on Thursday night, and maybe the crowd noise was too much of a factor for them to use the no-huddle on the road. And, to be fair, the Steelers didn't have trouble moving the ball against the Ravens. They just killed themselves with turnovers, a couple of untimely penalties and some missed passes that Ben Roethlisberger usually completes in his sleep. I'm not sure how much the Steelers will use the no-huddle next Sunday since they are playing at Carolina. But if the offense struggles early, they will have to try something to shake things up.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: Tough to argue with you, but I would play Brett Keisel at defensive end in the base defense instead of Cam Thomas and get Stephon Tuitt snaps when the Steelers go to the nickel. I think Tuitt will play more as the season progresses, but right now Keisel is their second best defensive lineman. I'm not sure what the Steelers were thinking in waiting so long to bring Keisel back -- and thinking Thomas is starter material at defensive end after he lost his starting job at nose tackle last season in San Diego. It's still early, but Thomas looks best suited to provide depth at defensive end and nose tackle, something Al Woods did last season.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I think the Steelers signed Thomas as a stop-gap with the hopes that he could hold down a starting job until a younger defensive end was ready to take over opposite Heyward. It's not like the Steelers paid a ton of money for him, but certainly they expected more from Thomas than what they have gotten through the first two weeks of the season. No question the Steelers have to improve up front or they don't have a chance defensively. Everything with LeBeau's defense starts with stopping the run. They have been gashed in the first two games by Terrence West, Isaiah Crowell, Bernard Piece and Justin Forsett. Yikes.

@ScottBrown_ESPN: I think the offense is going to be good, and that it is simply going through a rough spot at a bad time. The return of Lance Moore, assuming the ninth-year veteran is able to play next Sunday night at Carolina, will be huge. Justin Brown isn't ready to play as many snaps as he has been getting and Moore is the kind of savvy veteran who should thrive as the Steelers' No. 3 wide receiver or at least be productive. More problematic is the defense. The Steelers haven't been able to stop the run or put consistent pressure on the quarterback. They have yet to force a turnover in two games, and free safety Mike Mitchell, their prized free-agent signing this year, has really struggled. Yeah, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? I'm still standing by my prediction of 10-6 for the Steelers, because I think the offense will start to carry the team and that the defense will improve as the season progresses. But, as you know, there is a fine line between 10-6 and 8-8 -- and even 10-6 and 6-10..

CB Webb out again for Ravens

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
BALTIMORE -- The Ravens will be without their top cornerback for the second consecutive game.

Lardarius Webb won’t play tonight against the Steelers because of a back injury. Chykie Brown will start at left cornerback in the 8:25 p.m. ET game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Webb is the only starter who won’t play in the first Steelers-Ravens game of the season.

The Steelers are without No. 3 wide receiver Lance Moore (groin) and rookie running back Dri Archer (ankle) because of injuries.

Joining them on the Steelers' inactives list are wide receiver Martavis Bryant, nose tackle Daniel McCullers, guard Chris Hubbard, offensive lineman Wesley Johnson and quarterback Landry Jones.

Joining Webb on the Ravens’ inactives list are linebacker Arthur Brown, guard Jah Reid, wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Michael Campanaro, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi and guard John Urschel.
PITTSBURGH -- Will Johnson said he will be ready if the Steelers need him to do more than just block tonight against the Ravens.

Johnson, a fullback/tight end, will serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 running back at M&T Bank Stadium with rookie Dri Archer out because of a sprained ankle.

Johnson played a little bit of running back in the Steelers’ final preseason game, and he carried the ball one time for 6 yards.

Johnson played tailback and defensive back in high school.

“It feels natural," the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder said of playing running back. "If they need me in an emergency situation, I could do it.”

The Steelers could sign rookie Josh Harris from the practice squad to also provide depth behind Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. My guess, however, is that the Steelers are comfortable with Johnson as their No. 3 running back and won’t add Harris to the 53-man roster.

In addition to Archer, wide receiver Lance Moore won’t play against the Ravens because of a groin injury. Here is my projection of the five healthy players who will be deactivated by the Steelers for the 8:30 p.m. ET game at M&T Bank Stadium:
  • WR Martavis Bryant: The rookie fourth-round pick is listed as probable after coming back from a shoulder injury, but Darrius Heyward-Bey gets the nod over Bryant because the latter plays special teams.
  • G Chris Hubbard: I have the Steelers dressing eight offensive linemen with rookie Wesley Johnson getting the last spot on the game day roster because of his versatility. The last time the Steelers played at Baltimore they barely had enough healthy offensive linemen to finish the game. In a game as physical as this one it will be wise for the Steelers to have an extra offensive lineman active.
  • CB D.W. Webb: He only played a few snaps on special teams against the Browns and will lose his spot to cornerback Brice McCain unless McCain has a setback with his groin.
  • NT Daniel McCullers: Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon is fine after missing some time in the season opener because of a stinger.
  • QB Landry Jones: Has yet to dress for an NFL game and that won’t change unless there is an injury at quarterback.

Steelers' Archer, Moore out vs. Ravens

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers will be a little shorthanded on offense Thursday night in Baltimore.

Running back Dri Archer (ankle) and wide receiver Lance Moore (groin) were ruled out for the Steelers’ game against the Ravens.

Archer sprained his ankle in the Steelers’ 30-27 victory over the Browns last Sunday and Moore did not play in the season opener because of a nagging groin injury.

Justin Brown will again serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 wide receiver. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said fullback Will Johnson will also play running back in case of an injury to starter Le’Veon Bell or backup LeGarrette Blount.

Brown caught three passes for 38 yards against the Browns and played extensively in his first NFL game, which reflected the confidence Haley has in him.

“Justin did a lot of real good things for his first time out there in a home opener with a different level of intensity that you see from preseason games that he played in to real games,” Haley said of Brown’s NFL debut. “He handled it well. He fought through his mistakes and bounced back. He didn’t let it get him too down or too up when he made some plays. And he didn’t shy away from competition. I think it’s a great start to grow from."

All other Steelers players who have been dealing with injuries, including wide receiver Martavis Bryant (shoulder), cornerback Brice McCain (groin), safety Shamarko Thomas (Achilles, ankle) and center Cody Wallace (hamstring, finger), are listed as probable.
PITTSBURGH -- Running back Dri Archer and wide receiver Lance Moore did not practice on Tuesday, putting each player’s availability for Thursday night in doubt.

Archer left the Steelers’ 30-27 win over the Browns last Sunday with a sprained ankle and he did not practice a day after he was a limited participant in drills. If Archer can’t play against the Ravens, fullback Will Johnson will also serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 running back.

Johnson got a carry in the Steelers’ final preseason game, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley said the team had hoped to get him a little more work at the position.

“He’s a competent runner that’s a big back, has good vision,” Haley of Johnson. “He has to find the same holes when he is playing fullback. He’s a nifty, athletic guy. It’s not a bad emergency plan.”

In other alternate plans, Justin Brown will likely serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 wide receiver with Moore still hampered by a groin injury. Moore did not play in the season opener and missing practice on Tuesday does nothing to help his chances to returning to action against the Ravens.

The Steelers did get some good news from the injury front on Tuesday.

Wide receiver Martavis Bryant (shoulder) and safety Shamarko Thomas (Achilles/ankle) were full participants in practice.

Bryant did not play last Sunday while Thomas left the game with a lower leg injury.

In other injury news, center Cody Wallace (finger, hamstring) did not practice on Tuesday while safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Ike Taylor, tight end Heath Miller and defensive end Brett Keisel were given practice off by coach Mike Tomlin.
PITTSBURGH – The Steelers emerged from their 30-27 win over the Browns on Sunday in relatively good shape from an injury standpoint.

Rookie running back Dri Archer sustained a sprained ankle and safety Shamarko Thomas suffered a sprained ankle/Achilles tendon, coach Mike Tomlin said Monday at his weekly news conference.

Both are questionable for the Steelers’ Thursday night game at Baltimore.

Also questionable for the 8:25 ET game at M&T Bank Stadium are wide receivers Lance Moore (groin) and Martavis Bryant (shoulder) and cornerback Brice McCain (groin).

Moore, Bryant and McCain did not play against the Browns because of their respective injuries, and they have a short week to get healthy enough to suit up against the Ravens.

Archer’s injury -- and the quick turnaround he faces -- works against the third-round pick playing in his first Steelers-Ravens game.

Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are the only other running backs on the roster, but the Steelers would not necessarily have to promote rookie Josh Harris if Archer does not play Thursday night.

Fullback Will Johnson can play running back if needed. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said of Johnson, “You have another big back that knows how to run with the football a little bit.”

Moore, McCain ruled out for Steelers

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
PITTSBURGH -- Wide receiver Justin Brown will get a chance on Sunday to show he belongs on the 53-man roster.

Brown will serve as the Pittsburgh Steelers' No. 3 wide receiver as well as primary slot receiver against the visiting Browns.

The second-year man, who spent all of last season on the Steelers' practice squad, gets an early opportunity with veteran wide receiver Lance Moore ruled out for the 1 p.m. ET game Sunday due to a groin injury.

Cornerback Brice McCain has also been ruled out of the season opener with a groin injury while rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant won’t play against the Browns because of a shoulder injury.

Bryant is listed as doubtful on the Steelers’ final injury report of the week but the fourth-round pick hasn’t practiced enough to play against the Browns even if he was healthy enough to do so.

Center/guard Cody Wallace is questionable because of a broken pinkie while linebacker Sean Spence (knee), long-snapper Greg Warren (knee) and tight end Matt Spaeth (hamstring) are all listed as probable for Sunday.

The Steelers are likely to dress eight offensive linemen even if Wallace is able to suit up in case he suffers a setback. Rookie Wesley Johnson will likely be a part of the 46-man game-day roster if the Steelers dress eight offensive linemen because of his versatility.

Here are my projected Steelers inactives for the season opener in addition to Moore, McCain and Bryant:
  • NT Daniel McCullers: It wouldn’t surprise me if the rookie plays on Sunday since coach Mike Tomlin likes to dress an extra defensive lineman early in the season. But defensive end Cam Thomas can also play nose tackle and that position won’t receive a ton of snaps anyway.
  • CB D.W. Webb: The former Dallas Cowboy is still learning a new defense and safety Shamarko Thomas can play cornerback if the need arises there.
  • G Chris Hubbard: The Steelers aren’t dressing nine offensive lineman, and he is the odd man out even if they go with eight against the Browns.
  • QB Landry Jones: The second-year man didn’t dress for any games last season.
PITTSBURGH -- Brett Keisel's role on the Steelers’ defense remains unclear but the 13th-year veteran apparently won’t be limited by a snap count in the regular-season opener.

“I think he will be able to take a full load in this game,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “He [just] may be a little tighter on Monday than usual.”

Keisel re-signed with the Steelers on Aug. 20 and the veteran defensive end played in only one preseason game.

Keisel, who started the previous eight seasons, is second on the depth chart at right defensive end.

LeBeau said he is confident Keisel can handle an extended number of snaps Sunday because of how his body responded after playing in the Steelers’ preseason finale last Thursday.

The Steelers remain relatively healthy with the season opener against the Browns approaching, though cornerback Brice McCain (groin) and center Cody Wallace (finger) did not practice on Thursday.

Wallace practiced on Wednesday and McCain was a limited participant in drills.

Along with Wallace and McCain, wide receivers Lance Moore (groin) and Martavis Bryant (shoulder) missed practice on Thursday.

Bryant is not expected to play Sunday and offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Moore will be “iffy down to the wire.”

Justin Brown will replace Moore as the No. 3 wide receiver if the latter is unable to play against the Browns.

For Cleveland, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (wrist), guard Paul McQuistan (ankle) and defensive end John Hughes (hamstring) didn’t practice on Thursday.

Bryant and McQuistan have missed the last two days of practice.

Steelers healthy with opener looming

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
PITTSBURGH – The Steelers should head into the regular season with a relatively clean bill of health.

Wide receiver Martavis Bryant is nursing an A/C shoulder sprain that kept the rookie from practicing on Monday, but coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t ruled out Bryant playing Sunday against the visiting Cleveland Browns.

“At this stage early in the week we’re going to leave the light on for all of these men,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

A handful of players who have been working through injuries practiced at least on a limited basis on Monday, the first day the Steelers went through drills since assembling their 53-man roster.

Those include cornerback Brice McCain (groin), linebacker Sean Spence (knee), tight end Matt Spaeth (leg), wide receiver Lance Moore (leg) and long snapper Greg Warren (knee).

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Tomlin said.

One thing Tomlin said he is not worried about when it comes to injuries is Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown getting hurt while returning punts.

Brown will serve as the Steelers’ primary punt returner, Tomlin said, with rookie Dri Archer behind the fifth-year veteran.

Brown averaged 12.8 yards per punt return last season and scored a touchdown in that phase of the game.

“He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber return man. So that’s what you do with those guys, you play them,” Tomlin said. “I don’t live with my fears.”
PITTSBURGH -- Veteran defensive end Brett Keisel is a reserve on the first depth chart the Steelers released since setting their 53-man roster.

Keisel is listed as the backup to Cam Thomas at right defensive end. Cameron Heyward is the starter at left defensive end despite playing on the right side throughout training camp and the preseason.

Rookie Stephon Tuitt is listed as Heyward’s backup at left defensive end.

All four defensive ends on the roster should play extensively Sunday against the visiting Cleveland Browns, and look for the Steelers to dress all six defensive linemen who are on the roster for their season opener.

Coach Mike Tomlin prefers to dress an extra defensive lineman early in the season when heat and humidity are a factor in games.

Also notable on the Steelers’ depth chart: