Derek Moye is trying to make the Steelers in his first professional camp. If that is not challenge enough, he also is dealing with the death of his father, Jerry, who passed away July 3.
By Ray Fittipaldo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers No. 1 receiver Antonio Brown stands 5 feet, 10 inches, and fellow starter Emmanuel Sanders measures 5-11. Jerricho Cotchery and Markus Wheaton, the likely third and fourth receivers, are 6-1 and 5-11.
Height is not a prerequisite for catching footballs in the NFL, but it's not a secret franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has long desired a big target in the passing game. The Steelers only have one player remaining in training camp now that fits that mold after veteran receiver Plaxico Burress sustained a torn rotator cuff that required surgery.
Derek Moye, a former standout at Rochester High School and Penn State, is 6-5 and towers over his competition for the fifth and likely final receiver spot on the roster.
"You don't want to see another guy go down," said Moye, a 2012 Penn State graduate who spent part of 2012 on the Steelers practice squad. "Being in my position. I just have to make the most of my opportunities. With him going down, it definitely doesn't hurt me. But, at the same time, I can't worry about what's going on. I just have to play my game."
Moye is competing against a slew of other young players for a roster spot, including fellow Penn State player and sixth-round pick Justin Brown, rookies J.D. Woods, Reggie Dunn and Kashif Moore, and second-year player David Gilreath, who also spent time on the practice squad and 53-man roster in 2012.
"I hated to see Plax get hurt because he was a big fellow who could go up and make plays, especially in the red zone," new receivers coach Richard Mann said.
"He's not there anymore, so we have to find ways to get these other guys involved. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, so we have to find another way."
It has been a challenging summer for Moye. His father, Jerry, passed away July 3. Jerry Moye was a standout football player at Beaver Falls High School and was 53.
"It's tough, but, at the same time, playing football helps you get away from things and get your mind off it," Derek said. "I had enough time to do some grieving with my family. Camp came at a good time for me, to get my mind off things."
Mann, an Aliquippa native, recruited Jerry Moye when he was an assistant coach at Arizona State in the 1970s. Jerry Moye decided to go to the University of Cincinnati instead. Now, some 35 years later, he is coaching his son with the Steelers.
"He's coming," Mann said of Derek. "He's starting to drink the Kool-Aid, buy into all the little stuff we try to do to try to compensate for some of the deficiencies. He's not real fast, but he can run. We try to do some things to help that out. Some of those fundamental, technique things we drill, when we see them in the game it makes it better."
In the first preseason game Saturday night against the New York Giants, Moye caught two passes for 22 yards. It was the first time he put on a Steelers uniform in a game. He was with Miami in the preseason a year ago and spent time on the New Orleans Saints practice squad as well.
"It was really exciting, being from here," Moye said. "Everyone is a Steelers fan growing up. I was no different. Having a chance to wear the uniform was a great experience. Hopefully, I'll put it on a lot more."
That will depend upon his performance in the rest of training camp and the remaining preseason games. Moye has been making plays in practice, but Mann said he'll have to show versatility and make an impact on specials teams, too.
"I tell the fourth and fifth guys they have to be core special-teams people because in most offenses you only play three receivers," he said. "That fourth guy you have up has to earn his keep, and it has to be special teams. We try to encourage them to get on special teams and excel on special teams. That can be the difference in making a team or not."