PITTSBURGH (AP) -In the NFL, they're known as UFAs - unrestricted free agents. Players that other teams didn't want, didn't need, didn't sign or didn't care about.
In Pittsburgh, UFAs have a way of becoming MVPs.
The Steelers traditionally don't pay megadollars for players; they're never guaranteed any regular more than $36 million, a relative pittance these days. Yet they won a Super Bowl in 2006 and have averaged 10-plus victories since 2001.
They've stayed competitive -three seasons of 11 or more wins and three AFC title game appearances during that span - by drafting well, keeping the right starters for salary cap-friendly dollars and digging up players who are overlooked or unwanted elsewhere.
Players like Mewelde Moore.
for injured Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker by gaining 120 yards, catching five passes and scoring three touchdowns during a 38-18 rout of the winless Bengals on Sunday.
``He's become the locker room favorite,'' coach Mike Tomlin said of Moore, who has rushed for 219 yards in his last two games - or nearly as many yards as the 244 he had in 2006 and 2007 combined. ``This guy is delivering time and time again with his legs, with his hands.''
Even if some casual fans might not have known Moore was on the team when the season began. Much like they once didn't know much about Parker, linebacker James Harrison or left guard Darnell Stapleton, three undrafted players who also signed with the Steelers as unrestricted free agents but now are starters.
Nose tackle Chris Hoke, who has filled in for a month with Pro Bowl lineman Casey Hampton injured, also was undrafted. So was wide receiver Nate Washington, a once-overlooked player at Division II Tiffin who had a 50-yard TD catch Sunday.
Center Justin Hartwig was let go by Carolina after last season, but is starting in Pittsburgh. Kicker Jeff Reed was passed over by every NFL team before signing with the Steelers in November 2002, but his 94.3 percent (33-of-35) the last two seasons leads the league.
rsity of North Carolina backup who rushed for 4,012 yards from 2005-07. Harrison isn't far behind; undrafted out of Kent State, he led the Steelers with eight sacks and 6 1/2 forced fumbles last season, made the Pro Bowl and was the team MVP. Parker was the MVP in 2006.
Harrison and Parker alone would have represented a productive draft for any NFL team in 2004, yet each was ignored by every NFL team that April.
Moore played for the Vikings from 2004-07, starting eight games in 2005 but none after that. He was let go after gaining 113 yards on only 20 carries in 12 games last season, and signed with the Steelers in March to compete for their third-down back's job.
Tomlin was the Vikings' defensive coordinator in 2006 and felt Moore would be a good fit.
``It's awesome to come here, be the new guy, step in, study hard, work hard and see your work paying off,'' Moore said. ``I'm just working hard to get respect.''
Still, Moore wasn't expected to see any regular duty, not with Parker and first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall in front of him. Mendenhall, one of the nation's top college backs at Illinois last season, was added as a power back to complement Parker.
ers were down to Moore - and, well, no one else.
They were so thin at running back before going to Jacksonville on Oct. 5, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was jokingly asked how many bootlegs he could run. But Moore, who had gone nearly three years without a start, went out and ran for 99 yards, nearly equaling his 2007 season's output.
Pittsburgh's roster is proof that creative, resourceful teams can be more successful than those with ever-open checkbooks.
The Steelers (5-1) lead the AFC North by two games and have won three in a row going into Sunday's home game against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants (5-1), yet nearly one-third of their regulars could have signed anywhere in the league.
They signed Stapleton as an undrafted rookie last year mostly for his versatility; he played center at Rutgers but also showed he could play guard. When right guard Kendall Simmons sustained a season-ending injury Sept. 29, Stapleton replaced him with little falloff.
``I'm not 350 pounds, but I knew I could hold my own,'' the 305-pound Stapleton said.
Stapleton fit Tomlin's description as a more-you-can-do guy: The more any player can do for the team, the more positions or roles he can fill, the better.
Much like the Steelers almost always get as much or more from their roster as any team in the league.

Recent NFL Discussions

CFL Betting News and Notes Week 2 on Wed, Jun 2017 by Blade
College Football Conference Previews on Mon, Jun 2017 by Blade
CFL Betting News and Notes Week 1 on Sun, Jun 2017 by Blade
Handicapping Game of the Year Odds on Sun, Jun 2017 by Blade
SEC Schedule Breakdown on Thu, Jun 2017 by Blade

Top NFL Public Bets

NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail NFC North Odds to Win Are the Packers a sure thing to win the NFC North again in 2017? According to oddsmakers, that answer is yes.
Thumbnail NFC East Division Odds Are the Cowboys favored to repeat as NFC East Division champions in 2017?
Thumbnail Bills showing interest in Maclin Could the Bills be on the verge of signing Jeremy Maclin, who was recently released by the Chiefs?

NFL Team Pages