Pittsburgh Steelers: Why Derek Moye Has Edge over Justin Brown in WR Battle

Mike Batista@Steel_TweetsContributor IAugust 29, 2013

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers Derek Moye and Justin Brown were teammates for three years at Penn State.

They're teammates again in Pittsburgh—but not for much longer unless one of them makes the practice squad. Only one of these receivers will be part of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 53-man roster in 2013.

Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton and Jerricho Cotchery have the top four receiver slots virtually locked up.

Moye and Brown are fighting for the No. 5 spot. There's a chance neither will make the team. The Steelers started the 2012 season with only four receivers.

If the Steelers do keep a fifth receiver, Moye has a slight lead on Brown in that race. The margin is small enough, however, for Brown to overtake him. The job will be won in Thursday night's preseason finale at Carolina.

The most apparent evidence of Moye's edge on Brown is his statistical advantage.

2013 Preseason Receiving Statistics Through Three Games
Derek Moye89411.81
Justin Brown5377.40

Per NFL.com.

The same dynamic unfolded when Moye and Brown played together at Penn State. Moye was Penn State's leading receiver in receptions and yards for three straight years between 2009 and 2011. Brown was second on the team in those categories in 2011 and third in 2010.

Comparing Derek Moye and Justin Brown at Penn State (Receptions/Yards/Average/TD)
Derek Moye40/654/16.4/353/885/16.7/848/785/16.4/6
Justin Brown35/517/14.8/233/452/13.7/15/78/15.6/0

Per Sports-Reference.com.

Brown transferred to Oklahoma after the 2011 season and caught 73 passes—the number of passes he caught in his three previous years combined—for 879 yards and five touchdowns.

The Steelers chose Brown in the sixth round of the 2013 draft following his breakout year, while Moye went undrafted in 2012 and spent time on the Steelers practice squad.

Moye has one other measurable advantage over Brown: He's 6'5" while Brown is a comparatively stumpy 6'3".

Ben Roethlisberger loves those tall receivers. At 6'1", Cotchery is the tallest of the four receivers who have roster spots nailed down.

Moye's height already has come in handy in the red zone. His touchdown came on a 10-yard pass from Landry Jones against the Washington Redskins.

Neither Moye nor Brown has been clearly superior to the other as a blocker. Brown has special teams slightly in his favor. He shared a tackle with Baron Batch on the opening kickoff of the second half in the Steelers' preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

As a receiver, however, Moye has distinguished himself with effort. After dropping the first ball thrown to him, he caught three passes for 41 yards in the Steelers' Week 3 preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Of his 41 yards, 32 came after the catch. He broke some tackles along the way.

Moye caught two passes for 22 yards in the preseason opener against the New York Giants and was difficult to bring down on the second catch.

It took some dexterity for Moye to stay on his feet after this nine-yard reception against the Redskins, one of three catches for 31 yards in that game.

First, he catches the ball at the Redskins' 14-yard line and avoids Jerome Murphy.

Then he spins forward.

Finally, Moye dives to the 10-yard line to set up a 2nd-and-1. This likely did not go unnoticed in the Steelers' film room.

Screen grabs from NFL Game Rewind.

Reggie Dunn and Kashif Moore survived the cutdown to 75 and can't be counted out in the wide receiver derby. Dunn set an NCAA record with four 100-yard kickoff returns at Utah in 2012 and ran a 4.25 40-yard dash at Utah's pro day, according to CBSSports.com.

Dunn has returned two kickoffs for 73 yards with a long of 43 in the preseason. If he survives the final cutdown, it would be as a kick return specialist. He'd only get on the field as a wide receiver in Hail Mary situations.

Moore still has a prayer. He didn't play in the Steelers' Week 3 preseason game but figures to get on the field against the Panthers with the starters only playing a series or two.

Moore, who shuttled from the Indianapolis Colts to the San Diego Chargers to the Houston Texans practice squads last season, would have to make preseason history to leapfrog Moye and Brown in the pecking order.

Brown can be the Steelers' fifth receiver if he does enough Thursday at Bank of America Stadium. But Moye was the go-to guy at Penn State, and Roethlisberger will have his towering receiver if Moye can put the finishing touches on a job-winning preseason.



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