When you think of the offensive weapons that the Pittsburgh Steelers had in the season when they won Super Bowl 43, you'll probably first think about Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Willie Parker and Heath Miller. But one player that filled a significant role for the team that might not come to mind was Mewelde Moore; a decent spell back with speed to give Parker a reprieve and even have a few good starts when needed.
That might be exactly what Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin saw in DeAngelo Williams when they signed him back on March 13.
First, try to remember what Moore brought to the Steelers when he was in Pittsburgh. Moore was a free agent signing in the offseason prior to the 2008 season who had just spent four years with the Minnesota Vikings. When he arrived, Moore understood that Willie Parker was the well-established starter at halfback in Pittsburgh. What Moore was able to provide was solid depth at running back for Pittsburgh. In his first season with the Steelers, Moore made four starts, accumulated over 900 all purpose yards, and won a Super Bowl. Though his numbers do not speak volumes, it was the timely performances he brought that made him so valuable in the 2008 Super Bowl run.
When Parker was unavailable, Moore's skills came in handy, most notably in the back-to-back away games of weeks five and six when Moore ran for more than 200 yards and scored three touchdowns between those two games. His effort came up big against the Jacksonville Jaguars when he rushed for 99 yards and aided the Steelers in a close 26-21 win. The following week he played a leading role in the 38-10 demolishing of the Cincinnati Bengals, where Moore ran for two touchdowns and caught another.
As the season continued, Moore would not be needed as much as a starting halfback, but his ability to spell Parker, especially on third downs, was a significant role for the team. He consistently picked up blocks, and when needed could hit the right hole on runs and even make catches out of the backfield. His role as a pass protector for Roethlisberger was even more significant behind a struggling offensive line. If the 2014 Steelers had a player at the caliber of what Moore provided in 2008, there's a possibility the playoff game against the Ravens this past January would have had a different result.
Though Williams is in a much later point in his career now than Moore was in 2008, his skill set is similar to what Moore brought to the table. Williams is a few inches shorter, their weight was about the same and both Moore's speed in 2008 and Williams speed in 2015 could prove as a great option to give their respective obvious starters, Willie Parker and Le'Veon Bell, a break.
Williams has now been in the NFL for as long as Moore was after his last season in the league with the Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers let go of Moore after 2011 in the midst of the Rashard Mendenhall/Jonathan Dwyer/Isaac Redman years, but haven't quite found that spell back option that was valuable as he was when he was on the team. Since then however, they've missed a player who could be as consistent and timely as Moore was in his tenure with the team, and have been trying to find that eventual replacement.
In 2013, the Steelers picked up LaRod Stephens-Howling as a potential speed back/receiving option who could've provided similar services to the team. The vision for bringing Stephens-Howling in at that time might have been based on the same idea of bringing in Williams; the Steelers' offense could benefit from a good role-playing speed back that comes in handy. In 2014, the Steelers went with the bigger-back option in LeGarrette Blount, but weren't able to get a full season out of him either after he left the field during the game against the Tennessee Titans and was subsequently released. Blount wanted more significance to his role in Pittsburgh, and refused to settle for anything in a limited capacity.
In 2015, the candidate for that role is now the franchise-leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams. Statistically, Williams has about 300 less receiving yards than Moore's numbers, but Williams' downhill running style with speed to get to the outside could make up for that. Williams won't be identical to Moore's 2008 output, but the veteran benefits he brings, along with his athletic talents, could provide a strong fill-in role that can aid with the protection of Roethlisberger, the reprieve of Bell and the occasional guy who will carry the load when Bell is unavailable.
What's most important about what Moore provided, and what Williams could provide in 2015, is the willingness to be great within his limited capacity in the Steelers' offense. Williams will need to embrace the concept of the old adage from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."
Throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, Moore's role was a positive contribution to the team's two AFC championships and the one Super Bowl winning team with which he played. Outside of 2008, when Moore carried the ball 140 times, Moore never had more than 35 carries in a season. Despite this, having a person who knows their role is within that limited capacity, accepts it, and thrives in it, can prove extremely valuable at certain points in the season. DeAngelo Williams is now on an offense with a 'Michaelangelo' in Le'Veon Bell, a 'Beethoven' in Antonio Brown, and even an Andy Warhol in Roethlisberger. But should he embrace his limited role on the Steelers, Williams could be that 'street sweeeper' on a Super Bowl championship team and cement his part in a championship legacy.
Based on how he's portrayed his outlook of joining the Steelers going into the 2015 season, Steelers fans should be excited to see how he plays his role and expect a solid contributor out of Williams.