By Dutch | September 2, 2009
All this talk lately about Redman, Mendenhall, Parker, Summers, etc….Mewelde Moore is once again getting lost in the shuffle.
If there is one Pittsburgh Steeler who hasn’t received due credit for his work in 2008, it’s running back Mewelde Moore.
The Steelers signed Moore last year as a free agent from the Minnesota Vikings, where he was stuck behind Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor on the depth chart.
The Steeler brass may have initially pictured Moore as a quality third down back and possibly a returner on special teams, but when early season injuries hit Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, Moore was thrust into a starting role for a key stretch of the season. The Steeler offense was a mess. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was spending too much time on his back and the team found itself down to its third running back.
When things were looking their bleakest, an unanticipated trend began; the offense actually started to improve. It turned out that Mewelde Moore was able to inject the Steelers offense with an added dimension that they simply didn’t have with Willie Parker in the backfield.
2008 First Down Receptions by Running Back
Willie Parker 0
Mewelde Moore 17
Roethlisberger’s sack percentage decreased a full five percent from the time Moore took over until season’s end. Moore’s ability to catch passes and operate in space provided Roethlisberger a necessary outlet when the opposing defense was bringing the heat.
Moore’s pass-catching threat also helped bail out the running game from time to time. A little dump-off pass to Moore was sometimes better than trying to run the ball into a brick wall of defenders.
The San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s thrived on that type of game plan for years with their West Coast Offense. Joe Montana practically made a living throwing a five-yard pass to Roger Craig out in the flat.
Moore also proved he could be a feature back.
2008 Yards per Rush, on First Down
Willie Parker 3.7
Mewelde Moore 4.6
The difference between those two numbers is the difference between being ranked fifth-best and fifth-worst in the league.
Moore also brought a level of consistency to the running game.
2008 Yards Per Rush, by Carry: Carries 1-5 Carries 6-10Carries 11-15Carries 16 -20
Willie Parker 3.1 2.7 5.0 3.4
Mewelde Moore 4.2 4.3 4.3 4.2
Moore’s average gain was roughly the same, regardless of how early or late in the game those attempts came.
Parker, in contrast, seemed to need to warm up before spiking at 5.0 yards per gain between his 11th and 15th carries each game. Then, it was almost as if he ran out of gas.
Moore’s consistency gave the Steelers an element in their ground attack that they hadn’t had since Jerome Bettis retired.
Finally, Moore was far more likely to get past the line of scrimmage.
Some people judge running backs based on speed, while others judge them based on power. Perhaps the best way to evaluate a running back is his ability to keep his offense out of third-and-long situations.
There is no doubt that Willie Parker is the faster back, but he is a one-trick pony.
2008 Stuff Percentage (hit for loss or no gain)
Willie Parker 13%
Mewelde Moore 5%
Mewelde Moore runs with better vision, breaks more tackles, and catches a lot more passes. He also did a much better job running behind the Steelers’ zone blocking schemes.
Pittsburgh has run more of a spread offense under Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians and as a result, they don’t rely on a fullback like they used to. Moore’s skill set is better suited for that type of offense.
With Parker and Mendenhall back in the fold entering 2009, Moore might not get a chance to start this year. Still, the role he played one year ago was invaluable.
Steeler fans at autograph signings this year need to let Mewelde Moore know how great of a job he did last year.
After all, few seem to have taken notice.