As the Pittsburgh Steelers advance through training camp, a couple of notable veteran presences in the locker room find themselves in a vulnerable position when it comes to retaining their roster spot. Both outside linebacker Arthur Moats and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey were signed three years ago and have remained on-board since, but both now find themselves as risk of losing out to their youthful competitors.
That doesn’t mean that it will stop them from helping those young players grow and develop by passing on the lessons that they have accumulated over the years. Heyward-Bey in particular would seem to have a coaching future ahead of him. But Moats has been important to the development of the young outside linebackers as well.
“I know when I was a younger guy in this league, I was one of the guys asking questions and following guys around”, the veteran told Chris Adamski recently. “So to be in that position now, it’s truly good”.
While the Steelers did lose a former first-round draft pick at the outside linebacker position in free agency this year, they also brought in two new additions via the draft, a pair that includes another selection in the first round in T.J. Watt.
Watt is going to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster no matter what happens between now and then, so Moats’ real competition is the team’s seventh-round draft pick, Keion Adams, who has shown up well while he has been on the field, but the rookie is currently sidelined with what appears to be a left shoulder injury.
Adamski talked to some of the young outside linebackers on the roster—specifically, the two brought in during the 2015 draft class—both of whom were highly complimentary of Moats and the role that he played in their young development.
“Of everyone on the team, Moats is my biggest mentor”, Bud Dupree said. The two rotated at the left outside linebacker position during Dupree’s rookie season, but he secured the starting job, while still rotating, by the end of the year.
Anthony Chickillo, the team’s sixth-round draft pick from that same year, credited Moats for helping him out significantly during his rookie season. “He’s a smart player”, he said. “He’s play a lot of football, a lot of games in this league. He’s seen a lot”.
Entering his eighth season in the league, Moats probably understands that he is probably nearing his shelf life as an NFL pass-rusher regardless of what happens with the numbers game, but for the time being, he is enjoying his role as teacher.
“Ultimately, man, it’s just fun to be able to be in that position to share and to give back that knowledge”, he said. Even if he does not make the Steelers’ roster this season, his impact will still be felt via the wisdom that he passed on to others.