A day after losing wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery in free agency to Carolina, the Steelers went to their backup plan, signing New Orleans free-agent Lance Moore to a two-year deal.
Moore, 30, will provide an immediate upgrade at the receiver position for the Steelers, who also lost starter Emmanuel Sanders to Denver last week.
The Steelers would have preferred to keep Cotchery, 32, who had spent the past two seasons in Pittsburgh. But he decided to sign a two-year, $5-million deal with the Panthers over an offer from the Steelers.
With Cotchery considering Carolina’s offer, the Steelers turned their attention to Moore as a backup plan, hosting him Wednesday.
The addition of Moore gives the Steelers a veteran option at receiver behind two-time Pro Bowl player Antonio Brown. With the loss of both Sanders and Cotchery, the Steelers had little experience remaining at the position. Backups Markus Wheaton and Derek Moye have eight combined career receptions.
“Excited to be a part of #steelernation,” Moore tweeted. “Couldn’t ask for a better organization to continue my career with!”
Moore (5-9, 190) joins the Steelers after being released earlier this month by the Saints in a cost-cutting move. He was to receive a $500,000 roster bonus from New Orleans this month.
Moore had his best season in 2012, catching 65 passes of 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers dipped to 37 receptions for 457 yards and two touchdowns last year.
Moore, who was signed by the Saints off of Cleveland’s practice squad in 2005, has 346 career receptions for 4,281 yards and 38 touchdowns.
“While his production on paper is obvious, it only tells half the story,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said in a statement following Moore’s release. “Lance came to us an undrafted rookie who went to NFL Europe and spent time on our practice squad. He went on to produce outstanding results on the field for us as a result of his work ethic, reliability and commitment to get better every day. He’s been one of the pillars of what we have built here as an organization.”
Moore signed with Cleveland after going undrafted in 2005 despite a standout career at Toledo, where he played with current Steelers backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
Moore was signed by New Orleans later that season and was allocated to the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe. By 2008, Moore was a fixture in the Saints’ lineup, catching 79 passes for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns that season as a slot receiver.
He will likely serve the same roll for the Steelers, who could go into the draft looking to further upgrade their receiving corps with a tall receiver. Pittsburgh’s top three receivers – Brown, Moore and Wheaton – each are 5-11 or shorter.
Moore wasn’t the lone signing for the Steelers Friday. Reserve tight end Michael Palmer agreed to a one-year deal to return to the team.
Palmer, who was claimed off waivers from Atlanta last August, appeared in 16 games for the Steelers, mainly as a special teams player. He caught one pass for eight yards. Free-agent running back LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns for New England last season, is expected to visit the Steelers Sunday. The Steelers, who hosted Maurice Jones-Drew earlier this week, are looking for a veteran backup to pair with starter Le’Veon Bell.