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Print

Moats brings OLB-ILB versatility

Posted Mar 24, 2014

The Steelers addressed their depth at linebacker and also added a core special teams player


VIEW PHOTOS: Moats


In baseball, a third baseman is a third baseman is a third baseman. If he can play third base in the National League, he can play it in the American League. If a guy is a starting third baseman, he doesn’t stand to lose his job if his team hires a new manager, because there is no system to fit into, no playbook to learn.

Not so with football.

Coaching changes often mean system changes, which mean players who are fits for a team one year can become a round peg trying to fit into a square hole the next. That could be what happened to Arthur Moats in Buffalo, which might be why the Steelers were able to sign him to a one-year contract today.

Moats (6-foot-2, 250 pounds) entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, and at that time Moats became just the 12th player in the history of James Madison University to get drafted by an NFL team. While at James Madison, Moats was voted the Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the top defensive player at the FCS level of college football.

By the time the 2013 season rolled around, the Bills defense was being coordinated by Mike Pettine, who previously worked under Rex Ryan in both Baltimore and in New York with the Jets, which means Pettine’s system of choice is the 3-4. In Buffalo last year, the Bills played a hybrid form of the 3-4, but within the scheme Moats was both an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker, and in some passing situations he put his hand on the ground and rushed the passer.

Moats, who turned 26 on March 14, started 12 games for Pettine in 2013, and he posted a career-best 54 tackles. In his four seasons, Moats has recorded five sacks and 32 special teams tackles. But after the 2013 season, Pettine left to become the coach of the Cleveland Browns, and the Bills hired Jim Schwartz to replace him. Schwartz is a 4-3 guy, which meant Moats became a spare part in Buffalo, because the Bills are using this offseason to switch their defensive system to a pure 4-3.

In Buffalo in 2010, Moats delivered a hit on Brett Favre, then playing for the Minnesota Vikings, and on the play Favre aggravated an existing shoulder injury. It was Moats’ hit that eventually ended Favre’s consecutive starts streak at 297, because he wasn’t able to start the next week’s game, against the New York Giants.

For the Steelers, Moats figures to fit in as a backup outside linebacker and core special teams guy who also can play inside linebacker. In terms of a comparable role on the team, think Stevenson Sylvester. Moats was voted Buffalo’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2013 for his work with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie counties, for conducting numerous school visits and for taking part in the NFL Play 60 initiative.

With the Moats signing, the Steelers have added some needed depth at linebacker. The team now has four outside linebackers under contract – Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, and Chris Carter being the other three. At inside linebacker they have Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Terence Garvin, Kion Wilson, and Dan Molls.


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