With an eye towards the March 10th start of NFL Free Agency, the Pittsburgh Steelers cut Lance Moore yesterday, and as they shed one wide receiver they gained approximately another 1 million dollars in salary cap space.
- But you knew that already.
Lance Moore’s departure from the Steelers has been impending since the Steelers playoff loss to the Ravens. Moore never quite fit in in Pittsburgh, he wasn’t happy with his role in the offense, and made no bones about asking for his release.
He got it to no one’s surprise. What’s interesting about Moore’s release, is what it tells us about how quickly situations, and perceptions of situations, change in the NFL.
Steelers at Wide Receiver 1 Year Ago Today
365 days ago the Steelers were awaiting the start of free agency, just as they are today. Their depth chart at wide receiver looked like this:
- Antonio Brown — budding superstar
- Emmanuel Sanders – starter expected to depart via free agency
- Jerricho Cotchery – spectacular backup who wanted to be resigned
- Markus Wheaton – ballyhooed rookie who spent much of 2013 injured
- Derek Moye – tall wide receiver who showed some “upside”
- Justin Brown – practice squad player who reporters raved about
Sanders departed as expected. Then a number of things followed that the Steelers management did not expect. Al Woods left for Tennessee. Woods loss was far from catastrophic, but it did show that other NFL teams who weren’t so salary cap strapped as the Steelers both could and would offer free agents just a little more than the Steelers could.
- Everyone expected the Steelers to sign Cotchery quickly.
- Moore’s arrival in Pittsburgh calmed a lot of nerves.
Some (read this site) even went as far as to invent their own sabermetrics showing that Moore would provide more bang for the buck than Cotchery. Numbers don’t lie, that analysis was sound.
- But past performance does not guarantee future results.
Lance Moore got injured in training camp. Word was that coaches were not impressed with his efforts in rehab and when the season opened, it was Justin Brown, the practice squad golden boy who started as the Steelers number 3 wide receiver.
- But things didn’t stay settled for long.
Yes, Moore began working back into the line up, but he wasn’t the newcomer who announced his presence with a bang – that honor would befall Martavis Bryant, who lit up the Houston Texans on Monday night, and helped provide the spark that shifted the Steelers season.
Moral of the Story, Steelers Nation
The lesson here is that things can and do change quickly in the NFL. In December 2013, inside linebacker was the weakest spot on the Steelers depth chart.
- By September 2014 it was arguably the deepest.
14 months ago the Steelers situation at wide receiver seemed almost dire. Today the development of Wheaton and Bryant has made both Brown and Moore expendable.
There’s no guarantee that the Steelers can repeat these types of personnel pivots across the depth chart, but it is worth keeping mind if/when you see James Harrison decide to join Dick LeBeau in Tennessee and Jason Worilds takes big money to go somewhere else.