Moore on track to make his debut

The guy the Steelers had and wanted to keep in the job is playing for the team they're due to face this weekend, while the guy they signed to replace the guy they had and wanted to keep looks to be on track to make his first appearance for them against the team they're due to face this weekend.

In other words, Jerricho Cotchery will be wearing a Carolina Panthers' uniform on Sunday, and the Steelers are hoping Lance Moore will be wearing a Steelers uniform the same day. If that happens, it would be Moore's regular season debut for the Steelers.

"He practiced fully on Monday, and we're going to watch that develop throughout the course of the week," said Coach Mike Tomlin about Moore's availability. "With a guy who has missed some time with a soft tissue injury like him, it's not only his ability to participate, but it's how his body responds to that participation. We'll watch him, and watch his response to Monday's work and formulate a plan appropriately. Lance is a guy who's capable of helping us. He knows how to play football. He knows how to play the position."

The soft tissue injury that has sidelined Moore since the middle of August is to his groin, and that he is capable of helping the Steelers is indisputable, because whenever he has been able to play a full 16-game season he has caught an average of 59 passes.

But with Moore, injuries have been an issue throughout his eight NFL seasons, and that's why the Steelers have taken a cautious approach thus far. During his seasons with the Saints, Moore missed 15 games because of injuries.

"This is the most frustrating thing a football player has to go through," Moore told "It never gets any easier. People have said you have missed games in your career before. It doesn't get any easier. If you are a competitor, it should frustrate you and bug you and make you want to get back as soon as possible."

In Moore's absence, the Steelers turned to first-year pro Justin Brown to fill that role. In two games this season, Brown caught four passes for 44 yards, but he also lost a fumble deep in Ravens' territory on the Steelers opening possession last Thursday night.

When asked at his Tuesday news conference about nurturing Brown's confidence in the wake of the Ravens' game, Tomlin said, "I would encourage him to maintain possession of the football. That's first and foremost. We can't do anything without possession of the football. That supersedes anything else. He's responsible for his confidence. He better maintain possession of the football."

During his three seasons in the role of the Steelers' No. 3 receiver, Cotchery caught 79 passes, but it was his 46 receptions for 602 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013 that really put the sting into his departure.

"Jerricho Cotchery is a veteran, savvy guy who's very versatile," said Tomlin. "He's good in the run game as a blocker, good in the passing game as a route-runner. We have known Jerricho for a number of years, and he's doing some of the things there that he did for us."

In Carolina, Cotchery has eight catches for 78 yards so far as a starting receiver for the Panthers, with two of those receptions coming on third downs. While in Pittsburgh, Cotchery primarily worked the interior of the field on third downs for Ben Roethlisberger. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Cotchery is bigger than the average No. 3 receiver, but he had all of the qualifications for being good in that role.

"That they see the game the way the quarterback does," said Tomlin when asked what makes a good No. 3 receiver. "That they're capable of reading coverage rotations, and one-high safeties and two-high safeties. They have to do a lot of sighting in terms of the blitz game. They're often involved in some of the interior blocking in regards to some of the running game stuff. They have to be a well-balanced wide receiver – a football player first and a wide receiver second. I used to say that about Hines Ward when he played for us because he embodied what you value in a guy who's capable of playing inside."

"(On Monday), we had an opportunity to evaluate the guys from a health standpoint in terms of practice availability. A lot of guys with a clean bill of health are working in that regard. The only two guys who have medical issues are Dri Archer with his ankle injury, and he was a partial participant yesterday, and Steve McLendon with his right shoulder subluxation, and he was a partial participant as well. So we'll monitor those guys throughout the week and take a look at their availability for the football game."

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