PITTSBURGH – In two games, he has one catch, one carry, and one big block that picked up a blitz and allowed Ben Roethlisberger to connect with Santonio Holmes for six.
But you won’t find the latter anywhere in the sparse stat line following Mewelde Moore’s name. Not that he cares.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Moore said of his third-down block against the Philadelphia Eagles. “It’s coming good, man.”
Actually, Moore was brought in to catch and run the way the Steelers thought he could when he came out of Tulane as only the second person (Darrin Nelson the other) in NCAA history to rush for over 4,000 yards with 2,000 receiving yards. The question mark with Moore, after he spent four years with the Minnesota Vikings, was whether he could stick his nose between the numbers and block someone on third down. He had a reputation for being just another soft halfback from Conference USA, but part of that reputation was erased in his first preseason series in Pittsburgh.
“I’m working to polish every aspect of my game,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have a lot of tools and bring a lot of versatility to the table. Every day is constant work, on this or that. It’s the way my career has been going. I plug away and fine-tune every aspect of my game.”
To help himself become more physical, Moore is up nearly seven pounds – to 216 – over his weight with the Vikings. He says it’s helping.
“Weight does help when guys are moving,” he said. “That inertia’s coming and the little extra weight does help stop all that rush.”
Moore’s pro career actually started in baseball. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2000 Major League Baseball draft by the San Diego Padres. He spent the next three summers without advancing past the rookie-league level, where he hit .210 with one homer and 67 strikeouts in 176 at-bats.
He fared much better in the fall. In 2000 he was named the C-USA Freshman of the Year, and as a sophomore in 2001 set a Tulane record with 1,431 yards rushing. He finished college as the first-team C-USA halfback and also took 24 credits in the spring semester to graduate on time with a double major in finance and accounting. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Vikings, but never blossomed in Minnesota.
Moore made three starts as an NFL rookie and rushed for 379 yards (5.8 avg.) and caught 27 passes. Those numbers improved to eight starts, 662 yards rushing (4.3) and 37 receptions in 2005. He didn’t make another start, and in 2007 the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson in the first round, so Moore decided to move on.
“I was doing everything my first two years,” he said. “And then we started getting some guys who could help us out and I started picking up the punt-return and third-down role. Here, it’s the same deal. Overall people like what they see and you get excited to play your role.”
Moore enters his first season with the Steelers as their third-down back and a potential punt-returner. Even though he has only one catch for 14 yards in two preseason games, he’s shown great hands in practice and the ability to make people miss in the open field. He may have had some trouble accepting that role earlier in his career, but he’s matured into a role-playing 26-year-old.
“As you grow and mature you understand the business a little better and you understand how to be a professional,” he said. “Your first few years you can’t have that wisdom. That’s the difference between a seasoned veteran and a young player.”
Does Saturday’s return to Minnesota mean anything to him?
“Every game is important,” Moore said. “It’s football, and I just play football everywhere I go. It doesn’t matter if it’s playing one team or the other; I’m just going to play as hard as I can.
“I love the game of football. I love playing and that’s what I want to do, and I’m focusing on playing Steeler football and doing everything that’s going to help my team out.”