Player: Arthur Moats
Position: Outside Linebacker
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $635,000
2014 Season Breakdown: When Arthur Moats was first signed by the Steelers in late March, it wasn’t even entirely clear at the time where he would be playing, as he was projected to be able to play both inside and outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Of course, the inside linebacker position looked a lot different in March than it did in August, and the Steelers ended up carrying five of them, with Moats being only the third and last outside linebacker on the roster.
The Steelers did give him a series or two in the first two games, but he suddenly found himself receiving significant playing time as of the second half of the team’s third game, when starting right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones went down with a long-term wrist injury that ended up causing him to miss nine games.
Moats went on to record his first sack with the Steelers in the second half of that game as they closed out a key early road victory. He finished the year with four sacks, including a sack fumble at the end of a key divisional game late in the year that helped seal a victory that was pivotal in the Steelers winning the AFC North.
While he started most of the season, the truth is that he was never fully a starter, because as soon as he entered the starting lineup, the Steelers brought back James Harrison off the street, who immediately began to assume a healthy number of snaps.
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, or thereabouts, it was Harrison starting, as he slowly but steadily ate away at Moats’ playing time, even though Moats had done nothing with his play to merit a demotion.
Moats, in fact, was a pretty solid contributor overall during the 2014 season, and helped keep the defense afloat through Jones’ injury. He rushed the passer well in spurts, especially when he was able to use his speed, and held his own in the running game, while also producing two forced fumbles on the year.
Free Agency Outlook: The Steelers received good value out of Moats on a veteran-minimum contract this season, and they would certainly like to retain him. In a worst case scenario in which they are unable to re-sign Jason Worilds and Harrison does indeed retire—if they would even want to keep him—in fact, he may even be a last resort to start at left outside linebacker.
It’s unlikely that Moats will command a significant contract from other teams, but the Steelers may be interested in signing him to a multiple-year deal in order to secure some depth at the outside linebacker position, where only Jones is currently under contract for the 2015 season. Moats likes it in Pittsburgh as much as Pittsburgh has liked having him, so I see no reason the two shouldn’t retain a working relationship.