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Thursday Practice Report: Moore to see extensive action on Saturday

By Mike Bires
PITTSBURGH — For Mewelde Moore, the preseason begins in earnest Saturday night when he suits up for game against the Buffalo Bills.

Due to a hamstring injury that forced him to miss much of training camp, Moore missed the Steelers’ first two exhibitions. But he’ll be seeing extensive action this weekend as a third-down back, a featured halfback and as a punt returner.
“He’s looked great this week in practice,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Mewelde has a role for our football team in that he’s a third-down back. He’s a situational player. He’s got a unique skill set. He can get out of the backfield and run (pass) routes. He’s got great hands. Quite frankly, he’s a tough physical match-up for most linebackers.
“So we intend to use him in that area, in the early portions of the football game when we’re playing football the way we want to play in September. After that segment of the game is over, we may take a look at him as a feature runner to give him some carries, but really, the extent of that work will be determined on how he feels as the game wears on.”
Moore, who signed with the Steelers last year as an unrestricted free agent, was a valuable cog in the glorious Super Bowl season. He made four starts and, in those games, rushed for 99, 120, 84 and 57 yards.
“I feel good,” Moore said. “I’m happy to be able to get in my days of practice this week. Yes, I do except a lot of action (Saturday), but as I always say, I do what I’m asked to do.”
When the Steelers play the Bills, there’s a very god chance they’ll be missing two key offensive starters.
Tomlin has listed wide receiver Santonio Holmes and running back Willie Parker as questionable. But neither has practiced all week. Holmes took a helmet to the back in last week’s preseason game in Washington. Parker came out of the 17-13 loss to the Redskins with an injured hamstring.
In all likelihood, second-year pro Limas Sweed will start in place of Holmes.
Rashard Mendenhall last year’s first-round draft choice, is expected to start in place of Parker, who missed the first preseason game due to back spasms.
“We’d like to get an extended look at Rashard whether Willie plays or not,” Tomlin said.
And what might Tomlin be looking for from Mendenhall?
“Just to be a featured runner, a capable guy,” Tomlin said. “To run similarly to how he ran in D.C. I thought he was very decisive. I thought he was downhill. I liked the way he finished runs. He ran violently, if you will. This guy’s had a good camp and a good preseason. We just ask that he continues to do more of the same.”
Also sitting out Saturday’s game will be guard/center Darnell Stapleton, who’s still out indefinitely after arthroscopic knee surgery; rookie running back Frank “Tank” Summers, who’s been bothered with a hamstring injury; and third-team quarterback Dennis Dixon, who separated his shoulder in Washington.
“I’m getting better,” Stapleton said. “I’m hoping to maybe play in the last preseason game.”
That would be Sept. 4 against the Carolina Panthers.
There’s also a chance the Steelers will be without kicker Jeff Reed, whose foot is bothering him after he stepped in a hole last week on one of the practice fields at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
In the event Reed doesn’t play against the Bills, back-up Piotr Czech will kick.
Meanwhile, tight end Sean McHugh, who needed arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday, is expected to be sidelined for the next four weeks. That paves the way for rookie David Johnson, a seventh-round draft pick, to make the squad as the third tight end.
Even though Stefan Logan enjoyed great success last week as a kick return specialist, he’ll give way Saturday to other candidates.
Rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace will be first up on kickoff returns against the Bills. Moore will have the first chance at returning punts.
Logan, who had kickoff returns of 60 and 45 yards last week, will return both kickoffs and punts in the second half.
The Steelers must trim their roster from 80 to 75 by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The final cut, from 75 players is 53, is on Sept. 5.

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Mike Bires

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