When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Arthur Moats to their offseason roster in 2014 it was expected that he would not have a large role. Jason Worilds was establishing himself as an every down linebacker and Jarvis Jones needed to take a step in the right direction after a lackluster rookie year. The former sixth round pick from James Madison was thought of nothing more than rotation depth.
His first four years in the league with the Buffalo Bills were less than stellar. Moats spent his time shifting between inside and outside linebacker and was never able to commit to one position. He was finally able to display his talents on the outside when he started twelve games at the right outside linebacker position. His final year in Buffalo would be one that caught the eye of the Steelers.
Signed to a veteran minimum one year contract, Moats made a statement in 2014 that he was not just a backup. After Jones was lost for a significant amount of time due to a wrist injury he would see his time on the field drastically improve. Appearing in all sixteen games of the regular season, he would start in over half of them. Lined up across from James Harrison, who was brought out of retirement, the duo proved that linebacker was not just a young man’s position.
Moats would have career highs in sacks (4) and forced fumbles (2) before the end of the season. After a two year drought of being able to get to the quarterback he would record one less sack than he did in his four years in Buffalo. Under the tutelage of Keith Butler and Joey Porter, Moats had a year that would make the Bills regret letting him out into the free agent market.
In early March the Steelers resigned Moats to a three-year contract that would keep him on the team through the 2017 season. The deal keeps a talented linebacker on the roster in the event something catastrophic happens to where they need depth. Harrison cannot be pulled out of retirement every time something goes awry.
The question is: Can Moats continue to be as productive as his first year in Pittsburgh? With Harrison back for what could be his farewell season, Jones recovered from his injuries, and this year’s first round draft pick, Bud Dupree, all on the roster with him, it would seem that he would have trouble making the same impact that he did last year.
Many expected Dupree to make an immediate bid for the starting left outside linebacker position, but failed to outplay Moats for the right to start. Three games have transpired in the 2015 season, and Moats has started in all of them. The Steelers have the depth to rotate their linebackers at a constant rate, which means Moats must take advantage of every opportunity he has on the field to keep his starting role.
Dupree looked like he was making progress when he posted sacks in the Steelers’ first two games of the season. The rookie leads all Steelers linebackers with two sacks, but Moats is not far behind him with one and a half sacks. He split a sack with Stephon Tuitt against Colin Kaepernick in week two and recorded his first unassisted sack of the season on Nick Foles in week three.
The Steelers have a short week to prepare for their first division game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night. With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out four to six weeks with a MCL sprain the defense will be called upon to perform as they have in the previous two weeks. The Steelers have held their past two opponents to under 20 points and must continue that trend against Baltimore.
Moats is quite familiar with the Ravens’ offense after facing them three times last season. He recorded his third of four sacks against Joe Flacco last year in week nine. The Ravens may have a 0-3 record this year, but are still a dangerous division opponent in every matchup. The Steelers have to get constant pressure on Flacco, and Moats has the ability to make Thursday’s game a nightmare for the “elite” quarterback.
Arthur Moats has the ability to continue to be a productive linebacker for the Steelers for many years to come. Despite the pressure of the youth of the defense battling for his job, he will be able to play smart and effectively in an effort to add his name to the list of free agent pickups made by the Steelers that have turned out to be blockbuster acquisitions.
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