Steelers’ OLB Rotation Will Mean An Odd Man Out

File this under “good problems to have” even if, yes, it’s still a struggling group, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ have too many outside linebackers to play. Mike Tomlin was very blunt about that at today’s weekly presser, saying they will not have a five man rotation.

Five men enter. Four men play.

“A five man rotation is more difficult and less fluid. I’m really not into five man rotations. I expressed that to the group last week. As Bud gets up to speed, somebody’s going to win, somebody’s going to lose. I don’t care who wins. I think we all win if we play the hot hand. Those are our intentions.”

Two of those spots are already locked up.

“If you look at it right now, James is probably going to be in that mix. He’s been the hot hand of late. He leads the group and leads us in sacks. Other than that, I imagine Bud is going to be part of the group because we’re excited about what he could potentially bring us that we haven’t seen now that he has his health.”

So that’s two of the four roses given to James Harrison and Bud Dupree. The other two will have to be earned the rest of the way by the trio of Jarvis Jones, Anthony Chickillo, and Arthur Moats. Tomlin was again very clear about that.

“The other guys is going to be based on performance. And I think that’s fair.”

Perhaps it’ll change on a week-to-week basis to increase the level of competition in the locker room. But it’s probably fair to assume and assess that Moats is the favorite to be the odd-man out. Chickillo has been the better pass rusher, which would already give the Stelers two LOLBs. No room for Moats.

Of course, Moats does have flexibility and has played both sides, but he’s been glued to the left side throughout most of the season. It’s unlikely he’ll end up jumping Jarvis Jones. We’ve already seen Moats get shuttled to the bench before, sitting at the end of the 2014 season when the outside linebacker group got healthy again.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • george

    I think it will be Moats vs Jones unless there’s an injury.

  • Spencer Krick

    Can’t be Chick at this point, right? It’s going to be him or a rookie starting opposite Dupree next year, right?

  • Spencer Krick


  • WreckIess

    Definitely going to be a week to week competition between Moats and Jarvis, but honestly I wouldn’t mind if there was just a three man rotation. Get the young guys some experience and let Harrison get a good amount of snaps with a good amount of rest, too. If Moats or Jarvis prove they deserve some snaps then fit them in, but otherwise let the other guys get the PT.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Viewing it big picture Chick is in there. He has basically already beaten out Moats for this season and there is a strong chance he is the only OLB left besides Moats and Dupree next year. Odds strongly favor a Harrison retirement and Jones being gone.

    Can Chick play the right side Alex or is there a chance we see Dupree make that move next season? You would think they are the favorites as your 2 starters next season but not if both only play LOLB.

  • RickM

    As you kind of predict in your last line, odds are strong that Moats will be the odd man out in the short-term at least. Butler seems to feel Chickillo is better in fulfilling his assignments (‘he’s where he needs to be’), and Chick clearly has a greater ability to grow. Butler seems to far prefer Jones to Moats, even though Jones is an inept pass rusher.

  • The Truth

    Hopefully Tomlin/Butler don’t revert back to cutting Harrison’s time. The rotation should be Harrison, Chickillo, Moats and Dupree. Jones’ time should be reduced a lot.

    The issue with Dupree is does he understand where he is supposed to be on each play?

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I’m viewing little picture which is the NYG. I do think Chickillo will be getting more snaps than Moats who will likely be the one to see his numbers dwindle in the last few games unless he becomes the “hot hand” he has gotten 2 more sacks.

  • John Westbrook

    Chick is a better pass rusher than moats, Harrison, Dupree, Jones and Chick !!!!

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Here are the snaps counts plus the % of defensive plays for each OLB so far (according to Football Reference:

    Jarvis Jones: 402 snaps for 55.6% of defensive plays
    Arthur Moats: 369 snaps for 51.04% of defensive plays
    James: 358 snaps for 49.52% of defensive plays
    Chickillo: 295 snaps for 40.8% of defensive plays
    Bud Dupree: 21 snaps for 2.9% of defensive plays

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Harrison is averaging a sack every 89.5 snaps he plays. Moats every 105.4. Chick averaging a sack ever 118 plays he is in.

    For comparison; current sack leader Von Miller is averaging a sack every 50.72 plays he is in.

  • Josh Gustad

    I’m all for a decrease in reps for Jones. His pass rush is more laughable than Hubbard’s butt-fumble snap.

  • Josh Gustad

    Give me Moats over Jones.

  • Timothy Rea

    Yikes. Really highlights the ineffectiveness of the whole group with that.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    of course, Von Miller plays a lot more: 634 snaps for 79.85% of Denver’s defensive snaps but the sack rate should be a good comparison.

  • Alex Kozora

    That’s a good question. Chick has played more ROLB in camp/preseason than Bud.

    Of course, there is no guarantee Chick is a starter. It could be Dupree at LOLB, new guy at ROLB. That actually feels more likely.

  • Josh Gustad

    I personally think Jones needs to be in the 30%-40% range. That might be the case if Butler increases Dupree’s snap count like we are expecting. Come the end of the season, I fully expect to see Harrison on the field over 50% of the time. By far our best pass rusher, even with Dupree returning.

  • Josh Gustad

    I agree with everyone but Harrison as of now. I anticipate Dupree will elevate past Chickilo with ease.

  • RickM

    Good stats thanks. With Moats dropping to 27% last game it seems pretty obvious where they are going, and I know the site highlighted that in an early article. I imagine Harrison will top Jones for the rest of the year as he did last game.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    You think that guy is more likely to come as a #1 pick or through FA? And I know it is WAAAAAAAAY early, but is there any LB you have been eyeing on the college scene?

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Agree, only thing that changes that is the ‘hot hand’

  • dany

    Seen this movie before. It will be Jarvis, then he or someone will get injured and Moats will parlay that into a big (by his standards) game and stay on the rotation. You just cant keep Moats down

  • Kenneth Wilt

    We’ve seen Chick on the right. I think Jones may draw the short stick.

  • Steelers12

    y is Jones over Moats again?

  • LucasY59

    I guess the good thing is that James has not had that many snaps so far and will hopefully have gas left in the tank at the end of the season

  • Daniel

    leave jarvis out he does nothing on the field as a pass rusher

  • Alex Kozora

    I do. Carl Lawson, Tim Williams, SEC guys with production and pedigree. Seems up the Steelers’ alley.

  • Josh Gustad

    Which is smart by the Steeler staff. I have no problem conserving Harrison early on, as long as he’s being used fully down the stretch.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I’ll give them a look at some point.

  • MC

    I would take Chick over Moats. Sure, Chick hasn’t exactly lit it up but he’s played better than moats imo, he’s younger and most likely has a longer future on this team as a backup. I love seeing more Harrison, as the lone member of that SB era front seven, of course I want to see my boy adding to his sack totals.

  • MC

    Kills me that our 17th overall pick is playing just over half the snaps in his contract year.

  • AndyR34

    They sound like JJ 2.0 at this point. I hope to be wrong.

  • Richard Edlin

    Moats vs. Jones. Chickillo started as a project and shows some promise as a cheap, developing player who is definitely needed in 2017.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    put moats back in roatation. take jarvis out.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    jones is younger.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    dupree deebo chick and moats in my book. sit jarvis.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    nuff said.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    chick is a better pass rusher than chick? makes sense….lol

  • Michael Mosgrove

    nah. chick was what a 6th round pick 2 years ago? he’s good enough for a backup role. along with moats. keep dupree and deebo in see what they can do as a tandem. sit jarvis. hes gone next year anyways.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    not to me. i see next year starters as dupree and chick with draft pick and moats to back up. i used to think they would resign jarvis to a 3 year 3-4 mill deal. but he has regressed some after an above average start.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    for a 6th round pick chick hasnt been bad. he will start next year with dupree at this point. moats will be here. he is what he is. a solid backup. he is okay with that too. he is the dhb of the olb room. harrisonw ill retire…again. and jarvis will not be here.

  • gdeuce

    only by one year

  • Dshoff

    I’ve never seen the Steelers Olbs switch sides as much as I’ve seen this year. Maybe they are really searching to find the right guys and the right side for each. I just find it interesting how much they are switching.

  • CP72

    Completely different guys. Williams is more a Vic Beasley type and Lawson has some Lamar Woodley to him.

  • jlingo

    Jones hasn’t done jack his entire career. I would play moats as Jones is done after this season