The Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly will meet with unrestricted free agent linebacker from the Buffalo Bills Arthur Moats as early as Monday. The question is who will meet with him? LeGarrette Blount's visit was pushed back to Friday so general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin could be there to meet with him (Read here). They are in Orlando attending the NFL league meetings this week. Has Moats already agreed to a contract in theory and just needs to sign on the dotted line? Rumor has it that he has been in Pittsburgh over the last few weeks. Were there discussions in secret?
Arthur Moats (6-2, 250) started 12 games at weak-side linebacker for the Bills in 2013. He was also listed on the depth chart as Buffalo’s top backup middle linebacker. A sixth-round pick from James Madison, Moats has recorded 141 tackles and 5 sacks in four NFL seasons with the Bills. The 26-year-old is a solid veteran linebacker and special teams player who is also known to be a high character guy on and off the field. He potentially could provide positional versatility in the Steelers 3-4 defensive scheme with the ability to play inside and outside as Lawrence Timmons does. It is well documented that Timmons plays much better inside than outside, so this move makes a lot of sense for the team, Timmons, and overall depth. The main reason Timmons has played so much OLB in recent years is because of injury and lack of depth in recent years. Moats would certainly be an upgrade over their current stable of linebackers and would complement Lawrence Timmons very well by allowing him to move back to his natural position of ILB. This subtle change would dramatically improve the Steelers run defense, in particular, by keeping Timmons in the box where is most effective.Lawrence Timmons
Moats was an excellent run stopper in the Bills ever-changing front seven, especially on early downs. He was used primarily as a two-down player and taken out in most passing situations. The Steelers could benefit from his ability to stop the run considering their run defense in 2013 was the worst that it ever was under Dick LeBeau. His development in the Bills system was gradual and can be compared to what the Steelers were planning with LB Vince Williams, until he was forced to start at OLB when Larry Foote went down with a foot injury. Moats was injured over the Bills' final two games of the 2013 season and has missed some time with injury the last two years.
The OLB position is technically wide open since the release of Larry Foote. Foote was injured for much of the 2013 season. LB Vince Williams, who was a rookie last season, played the position, but didn’t make much of an impact. Depending on who you talk to, Williams’ ceiling is not very high. He made some plays, is a high energy player and works hard, but is he the starting OLB of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the future? LB Sean Spence, former third-round pick in 2012, is expected to return, but is coming off a major knee injury and hasn’t really played in the NFL.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers are working on a deal, my guess is that they will give him the opportunity to start at OLB opposite Lawrence Timmons, while allowing LB Vince Williams to continue to develop and play on passing downs and Sean Spence time to recover and play some football. Regardless of what happens, Arthur Moats would be a good signing due to his low market value (won’t cost much to attain), versatility, and ability to contribute right away, either as a starting OLB, backup OLB or ILB, or special teams player. They need depth and won’t necessarily acquire it from the draft. Moats was the Bills’ 2013 recipient of its annual Ed Block Award for courage, which is a good indication of his value in the locker room and in the community.
An interesting little tidbit - Arthur Moats is considered to be responsible for ending Brett Favre’s career.