For the second time in as many seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have replaced Arthur Moats in the starting lineup.
Of course, last year he was never supposed to be in the starting lineup, but he ended up starting roughly half the season when starter Jarvis Jones was lost for most of the year due to a wrist injury that he suffered while recording his first career turnover.
Despite the fact that he had been the starter in name, the fact was that he was gradually but consistently losing snaps to James Harrison in a rotation, and it wasn’t long before Harrison was logging the bulk of the snaps, and then was simply the starter, logging almost every snap.
This year, the Steelers moved Moats over to the left side as Harrison split reps with Jones on the opposite end, and in the meantime he got for himself a new battery mate in first-round draft pick Bud Dupree.
This season, the coaching staff has been consistent in working a rotation on both sides using all four linebackers at a roughly even pace, though Dupree had actually entered Sunday’s game leading the outside linebackers in snaps played.
This game was different, however, as Dupree was on the field first. It was his first career start in his 11th career game, and head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday that it would remain that way indefinitely.
And it’s nothing that Moats has done, to be sure. The Steelers quite like what the 2014 free agent signing has brought to the organization, both on and perhaps even more so off the field. He has become a locker room fixture and has endeared himself to seemingly everyone involved.
The front office rewarded him this offseason by signing him to a modest three-year contract after giving him a chance on a one-year veteran-minimum offer a year ago, only to respond to that by coming in playing well as a starter and logging a career-high four sacks and two forced fumbles in limited snaps.
This year, in roughly 400 snaps, Moats has so far posted two sacks—including two half-credited sacks, so he has been involved in three in total. His 23 tackles matches the total that he had last year. He has been a fairly reliable and dependable contributor since he has gotten to Pittsburgh.
To be clear, the fact that he has been passed over for a starting position two times now is by no means an indictment about his ability to play the game, or to play in this system, as he has done so at a competent level and then some. He has and will continue to see snaps and will contribute to this defense.
I do wonder what next season will bring for Moats. Will he serve as a super sub, taking reps at both linebacker positions as the third man? Will he be given the opportunity to compete with Jones for a starting spot on the right side? In whatever way it works out, I am certain that he will continue to help this team.