Arthur Moats signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the offseason with the mentality that he would not concede to a backup role. That would have been his likely destination had Jarvis Jones not gotten injured, but the Steelers did believe in his belief and versatility enough to carry him as the third and final pure outside linebacker on the roster.
Moats entered the starting lineup beginning with the fourth game of the season, but Pittsburgh also re-signed James Harrison to replace Jones on the roster, and the former Steelers great began consuming a good portion of snaps from his very first game back in the black and gold.
In fact, there was a fairly consistent trend for his first start to his last that saw Harrison slowly away at his playing time until it was Harrison who was out there for the first snap of the game in the Steelers’ two games prior to Sunday’s.
But Harrison was out for the Cincinnati Bengals game due to a knee injury, and despite the fact that Jones finally came back from injury after missing nine games, it was Moats who started ahead of him, for his eight start of the season.
I wrote prior to the game that I did not expect Jones to see a lot of playing time despite the fact that Moats’ playing time had declined in recent weeks with Harrison being out. That did not prove to be entirely true.
Jones began the game by taking a rep here and there on third downs, but he received a significant amount of playing time toward the end of the second quarter and the start of the third, and toward the end of the fourth quarter. By the end of the game, without taking a conclusive snap count, it seemed that the snaps between the two players were nearly evenly divided.
But if we were to measure their individual impact on the game, there’s no question that Moats was the impact player. While Jones had a key assist on an early third down stop, he was only credited with one other assist in the game.
Moats, on the other hand, had a few nice plays against the run, including plays that he set up for others by holding the edge. The headline, of course, would be his two sacks, fumble recovery, and forced fumble, however.
Moats first sacked Andy Dalton on second and seven late in the first quarter, forcing the Bengals into a third and long that they could not convert, as the Steelers scored the first points of the game on the ensuing drive.
The turning point of the game, however, was likely his fumble recovery when Dalton botched a play action handoff. The linebacker stayed home and pounced on the ball, and the Steelers recovered deep in Bengals territory, soon after jumping ahead 28-21 after a two-point conversion.
After a neutral zone infraction on the first play of the Bengals’ penultimate drive, the Steelers took out Moats and let Jones play for most of the rest of the game. In fact, Moats’ next play was his last, when he sacked Jason Campbell and stripped the ball out.