Ex-Viking finds his niche in Pittsburgh

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Over the years, I've had some readers tell me I was in the tank for former Minnesota running back Mewelde Moore, a fourth-round draft pick in 2004 who always seemed to get lost in the Vikings' backfield shuffle. He was on the small side and wasn't the fastest guy you ever saw, but as a rookie Moore proved to have exceptional vision and good instincts in the open field.

Every time he got his hands on the ball -- either on a running play or via screen pass or punt return -- Moore seemed to get three or four more yards than he should have. (In fact, he led the NFL with most yards after contact in 2004.) I never thought he was the type of runner you would give 300 carries, but he was in many ways an ideal third-down back and change-of-pace backup.

The Vikings didn't always see it that way, however. They totally phased Moore out of the offense in 2007, limiting him to 20 carries, six receptions and most of his playing time came on special teams. True, the Vikings had a couple of tailbacks named Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor ahead of him, but to some -- including me -- it seemed a classic case of freezing out a player who could have helped the team if used correctly.

So it was refreshing to see Moore carve out a near-perfect role after signing with Pittsburgh in the offseason, rushing for 588 yards as a backup and injury fill-in for starter Willie Parker. Moore also caught 40 passes and scored a total of six touchdowns in part-time duty. He'll be a secondary but nevertheless significant weapon for the Steelers on Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII.

Speaking to reporters in Tampa, Fla., this week, Moore said he was grateful to have a clearly defined role:

"Coming in from Minnesota and being able to come into Pittsburgh, where things are laid out on the table and there is a higher demand of prestige and excellence and performance, and you step up to that plate, your year goes by so fast. I believed in my abilities and I knew what I was being asked to do, so I knew that I could deliver. Being blessed with the opportunities to deliver, it's been a really great experience for me and I'm just really happy about this year."