Week One X-Factor: Arthur Moats

Weekly article we’ll do to on gameday to highlight the one overlooked player who may hold the key to success to victory.

Week One – OLB Arthur Moats

Much has been written about on the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass rush with the loss of Bud Dupree for at least half the season. Maybe no one has been more concerned, and in a way, critical of the personnel left. It’s not that the group the Steelers have are bad; they aren’t, but far from the level of dominance this team usually demands.

The biggest beneficiary, snap wise, of Dupree’s absence, is Arthur Moats. He’s had the best preseason in its totality – camp and preseason games – of any outside linebacker on this team. He gave Marcus Gilbert fits in camp and was fairly dominant over the preseason, finishing second on the team with 5.5 pressures.

It’s not just Moats own impressive play that’s putting him under the spotlight. It’s his matchup. On the left side of Washington’s offensive line is Trent Williams. He’s one of the best in the league. Jarvis Jones will probably get shutdown and James Harrison’s success will be limited. That puts the pressure on Moats, who will get the much easier matchup of Morgan Moses. Moses is a load at 335 pounds but struggles laterally in pass protection and the most vulnerable pass blocker among that front five.

If the pressure is coming from anywhere by the outside linebackers, it’s that side, and specifically, Moats. Which is good because the Steelers like to drop their ROLB much more often than their left. Given the landscape of Washington’s line, it only provides extra incentive to stick to that plan.

Run defense will be a different story but just as crucial for Moats. This is where Moses will have the upper hand, a powerful run blocker. Washington’s offense is potent, maybe nearly as good across the board as the Steelers in their current state, making it all the more important to make their offense one-dimensional.

Perhaps the best solution, when applicable, is to slide a three tech to that side, forcing a double team from the guard and tackle and leave Moats on a tight end. Of course, that won’t always be possible and leaves Williams, also a strong run blocker, matched against the OLB to the other side. Washington has no problem running weakside, either.

I know stats like this can be a little wonky, and sometimes give obvious context, but over the past two seasons, Pittsburgh is 11-3 when they record at least three sacks in a game. If the team can apply that pressure to Kirk Cousins, they’ll be in the driver’s seat to win.

It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort. But Moats is the key.

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