Steelers win but backfield is decimated
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Posted By George Winkler 12:20 AM
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If you like hard-nosed football, then Pittsburgh's 23-20 overtime victory against Baltimore on Monday night was black-and-blue enough for you. It's not often when injuries become a bigger story than players' performances, but that was the case at Heinz Field. Both teams entered the game with banged-up backfields, and the situations only got worse.

In the end, it was a couple of third-down pass plays to Mewelde Moore, Pittsburgh's fourth-string running back, that set up the winning field goal by Jeff Reed from 46 yards.

Moore was in the game because Pittsburgh lost two more running backs to injuries. Rashard Mendenhall, who was filling in for injured Willie Parker, hurt his shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. Then, Mendenhall's backup, Carey Davis, turned an ankle in the fourth quarter. Enter Moore, who was probably expecting only to see special teams duties in this one.

Moore managed only 13 yards in eight carries, and he got run over on one blitz pickup. But he came up with a 24-yard reception on third down in overtime to push the ball deep into Ravens' territory. Then, after a botched handoff between Ben Roethlisberger and himself, Moore came through again on third down by hauling in a pass from Big Ben, who was under extreme pressure.

If the Steelers need to go with Moore as their starter next week against the Jaguars, it could be trouble. He does not possess enough size and power to be the tough inside runner the Steelers like. He'd be a desperation play at best for fantasy owners, perhaps for those who own both Parker and Mendenhall. But look for updates on the Steelers' backfield throughout the week; the report figures to be a lengthy one.

Here we are talking about the bumps and bruises in Pittsburgh's backfield and we haven't even gotten to Baltimore's Willis McGahee yet. He left with a chest injury after rushing 13 times for 42 yards. McGahee, who had knee surgery in the preseason and suffered an eye laceration last week, is having problems staying healthy. He won't get a break after a short week of recovery when the Ravens play the Titans in Week 5.

If McGahee can't go, it could be another heavy dose of Le'Ron McClain. Doing his best Natrone Means immitation, McClain bowled over a few Steelers on the way to 16 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. But McClain experienced cramping and had to give way to Ray Rice briefly. McClain did finish the game, however. We have to say, he was in the minority among running backs in that respect.