Admittedly, I have been trying to run veteran outside linebacker Arthur Moats off the Pittsburgh Steelers roster all offseason. Now, it’s not because I don’t like Moats the person, however. I mean, every time he has a video interview, you cant help but smile while watching it as he’s always smiling as well. He is a very, very likable player and he never looks like he has a bad day. No, my reason for trying to run Moats off the 53-man roster this year is rooted mainly in the numbers game and what has transpired at his position group recently.
For starters, Moats was seemingly bypassed by on the team’s outside linebacker depth chart last year by Anthony Chickillo. Additionally, Moats’ playing time on special teams dwindled last season as well. Assuming Chickillo is still currently ahead of Moats on the depth chart, that puts the James Madison product fifth on the outside linebacker list, albeit still ahead of rookie seventh-round draft pick Keion Adams.
Personally, I expected Adams to somewhat push Moats during training camp for what could ultimately be a fifth and final outside linebacker spot and more specifically, as a potential solid special teams contributor. Adams, however, hasn’t even made that speculated battle on my part interesting at all as he’s missed quite a bit of training camp with a reported shoulder injury. If that’s not bad enough, Moats, in case I missed something, has yet to miss a day of practice. Additionally, he was just one of three Steelers outside linebackers healthy enough to play in the Steelers preseason opener against the New York Giants.
Sure, it’s easy to be impressed by rookie first-round draft pick T.J. Watt playing a team-high 63 defensive snaps and another 10 special teams snaps in his Friday night NFL debut. But with that noted, let’s not forget that the 29-year old Moats played 49 defensive snaps in addition to 7 special teams snaps and I bet he was smiling during every one of them. While Watt had a great NFL debut that included two sacks, three total quarterback hits and a pass defensed, Moats trumped the rookie with three sacks of his own in addition to an interception.
After the game was over, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin somewhat playfully downplayed Moats’ performance against the Giants.
“To be quite honest with you, he did what we was supposed to do,” Tomlin said of Moats’ play against the Giants. “He was like the 11th grader in the JV game there at the end. He’s supposed to dominate under those circumstances and he did.”
Moats, however, had a slightly different take on his Friday night preseason showing.
“Anytime you get the opportunity, you want to be productive, and that was ultimately what I was thinking about,” Moats said in the locker room. “In regards to the sacks and stuff like that, I know that the first one was more of a coverage sack, but the second two was on the second tackle that was in there and so I felt like if I’m out here with the twos, you should be out here too and so, its all good.”
As for Moats’ interception Friday night, which came as a result of him dropping deep into the flat, he’s very proud of that play as he should be.
“It’s something we’ve been harping on,” Moats explained after the game. “All offseason, actually a couple of years now, getting this buzz-drop and it felt good to go out there and get me one, because Coach T always talks about me being a college defensive end. So, I’ve got to let him know that I’ve got hands and I look like an athlete when I’m out there. I should have ran it back, but I got caught.”
The Steelers obviously have a lot invested right now in Watt and Bud Dupree, a former first-round draft pick himself, and they’re both expected to play quite extensively on the outside in 2017 because of that. So, does Moats consider himself the forgotten man right now with two first-round draft picks ahead of him?
“I personally don’t,” Moats said. “I don’t get caught up in that stuff. I just focus on making sure I’m out here every day, making sure I get better and whenever I get the opportunity, just trying to be productive.”
As far as 2017 base salaries go, Moats is the Steelers highest paid outside linebacker right now and that’s yet another reason why I’ve tried to push him out of town being as he’s seemingly fifth on the depth chart. With that said, it’s not like he’s breaking the bank or hurting the team’s salary cap situation with his $2.25 million salary. In short, nobody, and especially me, should be concerned if Moats winds up being a game-day inactive during the 2017 season should he ultimately make the 53-man roster.
As the old saying goes: a player’s best ability is often times his availability. In Moats’ case, he not only has availability right now, but other abilities as well as we saw Friday night. In short, I was foolish to try to run him out of town and especially in lieu of a a rookie seventh round-draft pick. I tried to cross the Moats and he’s making me look foolish for attempting to do so. I apologize for that, Arthur.