By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — With all the action directed toward rookie seventh-round draft pick Baron Batch during the first week in training camp at Saint Vincent College and in-action until the last minute by the Pittsburgh Steelers to re-sign him, running back Mewelde Moore basically has been a forgotten man so far.
Moore wanted to make sure his No. 21 and name were easier to remember after bursting around left end for a huge gain in a team drill the other day, which he believed proves he can still run the ball as well as he can catch it.
“Everybody’s working hard to get into a groove before the regular-season begins,” Moore said. “We have about a month to go, so we still have a lot of work to do, and the first preseason game is almost here.
“But for guys like me, who basically worked out on their own and missed the first week, it’s been a very slow process. We’re still knocking off the rust. I think I’ve done some good things so far, but I can be better.”
Few have been better than Batch, who proved at Texas Tech that he can run and catch the football well enough to be some NFL teams’ third-down back at least initially. He’s already made a play to be more, although Steelers coach Mike Tomlin won’t acknowledge anything about him to this point other than his status as an NFL rookie.
But Batch’s performances have warranted much more than that. He has run the ball hard, caught everything thrown his way and most importantly — in an area where Moore has struggled in drills and in games — Batch has been an aggressive blocker. Through it all, Batch appears to have remained grounded.
“I’m not worried about anything except learning as much as possible to make myself more valuable to this team,” Batch said. “And I can learn a lot from Mewelde. He’s a veteran and a good guy. He’s already helped me a lot.”
Moore actually has taken it all in stride.
“I take everybody under my wing,” Moore said. “Whatever it takes us to continue to be a great group of running backs, that’s my job. I take pride in that and I take it to heart. (But) you blink your eyes, turn around, and you’re the vet in the classroom. So, I guess that’s me now.”
Tomlin has been a Moore backer since the two were together with the Minnesota Vikings, and the eighth-year pro is in his fourth season with the Steelers after four in Minneapolis.
With Rashard Mendenhall as the starter and Isaac Redman apparently entrenched as the short-yardage and goal-line back, respectively. Moore likely has a spot, too, but it isn’t certain that both he and Batch can both make it. Maybe only one or the other gets on the roster.
“We’re pretty comfortable right now with what we have, but we’re looking for guys who can contribute to special teams in a major way,” Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. “That was indicated to our room from Day 1.
“(So), we’re looking for big-time special-teams contributors. Our room has not been a big-time special-teams contributor in recent years, and we need to improve in that area. So, guys who can do that have to step up.”
Another player in the mix, obviously, is last year’s sixth-round pick Jonathan Dwyer. He appeared to be poorly conditioned early in camp, but he’s come on strong lately. And Tomlin acknowledged that personally when the two met briefly after Monday’s practice. Moore knows the competition is stiff, but he had no qualms about returning to the Steelers.
“It’s home,” Moore said. “It wasn’t that hard. It was a no-brainer, so I’m glad to be back to work again. We have a lot of talent in our room, some veterans and some good young players as well. Batch, I like everything about him.
“He’s explosive and quick, and he has no fear. And that’s what you want from a young guy. He can make plays, and he’s still developing. … So, we have a lot of young guys that I can’t wait to see play in the preseason.”
The Steelers and their fan base feels the same way about that.
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