Stakes high as ex-Saints receiver Moore faces his former team
Steelers wide receiver Lance Moore couldn’t fathom finishing his NFL career anywhere other than the “Big Easy.”
Yet he accepted the sometimes-cruel nature of a business that often embraces youth instead of experience. The New Orleans Saints tipped their hand early, suggesting they would take a wide receiver in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.
Consequently, Moore was the odd man out. He was released in early March, four seasons after helping the Saints to a Super Bowl victory.
New Orleans opted to stick with Robert Meachem and Marques Colston. And they took Brandin Cooks off the draft board with the 20th overall pick.
“I wouldn’t say that there were hard feelings. I totally understand the business side,” Moore said. “Obviously, thinking selfishly, I would have liked to have ended a different way, but it can’t always work out the way that you want it to.
“Most guys in their careers at some point come to a situation where you get cut or have to take a pay cut or you get traded. I’ve been cut four times in my career, so it’s not like I feel like I’m invincible when I’m under contract.”
Moore, who signed a two-year, $3 million deal with the Steelers shortly after his release, gets a shot at his former team Sunday at Heinz Field.
Moore feels somewhat conflicted playing against a team he spent the first nine years of his career. The stakes are high, considering the 4-7 Saints are atop the NFC South, and the 7-4 Steelers are vying for the AFC North crown.
“It’s definitely going to be one of the more weird games that I’ve played in,” Moore said. “To be in New Orleans for nine years and then be on an opposing team, that will definitely be weird for me.
“The relationships (with Meachem and Colston) are the ones I’m going to carry with me even after I’m long gone from playing football. Those guys are more than just my teammates and colleagues, they are my good friends.”
Moore faced a different obstacle earlier this season. He was slowed some by injuries, but he couldn’t get on the field even after he healed.
He didn’t get his first reception with the Steelers until Week 5 at Jacksonville, where he visibly unloaded his frustrations. He spiked the ball to draw a delay-of-game penalty that drew the ire of coach Mike Tomlin.
So far, Moore has put up some unimpressive numbers: 11 receptions for 156 yards (14.2 avg.) and two touchdowns.
Yet Tomlin expressed only praise for the 10-year veteran.
“He’s the savvy veteran that we expected him to be,” Tomlin said. “He’s a low maintenance guy. He’s extremely professional. He’s smart. He comes with good ideas. He knows all of the positions. We’ve had to play him that way because he’s playing with young people.”
Moore said money wasn’t the only reason he decided to take the Steelers’ offer. He jumped on the first flight to Pittsburgh partly because he envisioned winning a second Super Bowl ring with a team in search of its seventh.
“The guys want to work toward a common goal, and that’s a being able to participate at a championship level,” Moore said. “We want to set ourselves up to get into the playoffs, and that’s where it starts.”
The Steelers, too, needed Moore. Receivers Jerricho Cotchery (Carolina) and Emmanuel Sanders (Denver) were no longer in their plans.
QB Ben Roethlisberger needed an experienced receiver opposite Antonio Brown.
“His football smarts were off the charts,” New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said. “He could do whatever you asked him to do”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].