Lance Moore Signing a Smart Move for Steelers Team Needing Veteran WR Help

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVMarch 21, 2014

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The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Friday that they signed free-agent wide receiver Lance Moore to a two-year deal.

The signing of the former New Orleans Saint comes one day after receiver Jerricho Cotchery chose to join the Carolina Panthers rather than return to Pittsburgh, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Moore clearly has been brought on to fill Cotchery's void as well as to add a veteran presence to the receiving corps that the Steelers were lacking.

Prior to signing Moore, the Steelers had just three wide receivers who caught any passes last year. Antonio Brown led the way with 110 catches for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns; the other two, Derek Moye and Markus Wheaton, had just eight combined catches totaling 84 yards and one score.

The writing was on the wall for Moore in New Orleans in 2013. In a season marred by a wrist injury, he was targeted by Drew Brees just 54 times for 37 receptions totaling 457 yards and two scores. It was Moore's least productive season since 2007. In 2012, he was a greater part of New Orleans' passing game, with 65 catches for 1,041 yards and six scores.

Lance Moore vs. Jerricho Cotchery: Career Stats
via ESPN

In Pittsburgh, Moore will serve as both a possession and slot receiver, working mainly the inside of the field and occasionally on the outside, much as Cotchery did. And like Cotchery, Moore will also play a mentorship role for Pittsburgh's younger receivers like Moye and Wheaton, who are trying to develop into cornerstones of the Steelers offense.

Cotchery is coming off of the best season he's had in Pittsburgh and one of the best of his career. Through three years with the Steelers, he caught 79 passes in 133 targets for 1,044 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 46 of those catches, 602 of the yards and 10 of the scores coming in 2013. 

Moore, despite his down 2013 season, has been the more reliable touchdown scorer over the course of his career. From 2008 through 2012—Moore's most productive stretch—he scored 34 touchdowns, compared to 12 for Cotchery. In total, he has 38 career touchdowns to Cotchery's 30 and has two fewer years in the league.

Expect Moore to see a good share of red-zone targets. His presence inside alongside tight end Heath Miller will give Ben Roethlisberger plenty of scoring options.

Moore could also be used as a kick or punt returner, another position the Steelers are thin at since Emmanuel Sanders moved on in free agency. Moore has done both—primarily the latter—for New Orleans and has a career total of 387 yards on 47 punt returns and 354 yards on 18 kickoff returns.

Though one priority for the Steelers this offseason is to get younger at certain positions, wide receiver isn't one of them. A rookie receiver is rarely an effective one. Though the Steelers should still target the position in May's draft, their real priority after losing both Cotchery and Sanders was to add experience to their group of receivers rather than subtract it. The Moore signing addresses it perfectly.

It might be a stretch to assume that Moore can come in and have a 2014 season to rival what Cotchery accomplished in 2013, but his history in New Orleans and the role he was brought in to Pittsburgh to play surely indicates he'll have plenty of opportunities.

This was a need-based, utilitarian signing, but nevertheless, it makes the Steelers stronger in an area they were quite weak at just 24 hours prior.