With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: OLB Arthur Moats
Stock Value: Up
As it currently stands, veteran outside linebacker Arthur Moats is one of only two at the position currently on the roster who has significant experience and is under contract for the 2017 season, although that could eventually change.
James Harrison announced yesterday that he will indeed be returning for a 14th season, but it is widely expected to be his final one at the age of 38. In the meantime, the Steelers elected not to exercise the fifth-year option on Jarvis Jones’ contract. They also failed to address the position in a significant manner during the draft or free agency.
After Moats was brought in as a free agent for the veteran minimum in 2014, he was thrust into the starting lineup, and in a rotation with Harrison, after Jones was injured, and he produced a career-high four sacks in limited snaps.
He parlayed that one-year deal into a modest three-year contract the following year, of which the 2015 season was the first, and of which he started 11 of 16 games, although he played slightly less than half of the snaps. Still, he racked up another four sacks (one adding up from two half-sacks) in a rotation and posted a very respectable 35 tackles while also recovering two fumbles.
Entering his third season with the team, Moats, at the age of 28, knows the defense well by now, and has always been regarded as an intelligent player. The coaching staff has already entrusted in him the duty of starting outside linebacker in two different seasons, albeit in a rotation each time.
Given the potential turnover that we might see after this season, it is certainly conceivable that we might see Moats take on a bigger role in 2017, if not a starting role, as a bridge to the next starter at the position, assuming Harrison retires and Jones ends up leaving in free agency, or simply underperforming.
After all, from a purely on-field contributions standpoint, it would not be unfair to say that Moats has outperformed Jones, and perhaps even deserves to start over him. That will not happen, of course, because the coaching staff needs an answer on who Jones is and can be.
Moats will turn 29 in March, while Jones will turn 27 in October, so Moats is only about a year and a half older. The former Buffalo Bill certainly has plenty of tread left on his tires, considering he has never been used extensively. And there is a reason he was signed to a three-year deal.
The Steelers have already shown a belief in his ability to start if he has to, and he has the versatility to do so on either side of the line. This is all still a ways into the future, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the role that he was last year, starting ahead of and rotating in with a rookie while serving as the bridge to the next generation, and a security blanket if things go wrong.