Moats gets plenty of work with Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- The number that Arthur Moats wore in Buffalo meant enough to him that it became a part of his Twitter handle.

But it also belonged to former Pittsburgh Steelers great Mike Webster.

When it came to picking a number after he signed with the Steelers, Moats wanted to respect Webster by staying away from No. 52 but also embrace the expectations that come with another number.

He did both by settling on No. 55, something Moats did after taking to Joey Porter, who is the most accomplished player in Steelers' history to wear that number.

"He said, 'Can't just anybody wear the number,' " Moats said with a laugh. "He's cool with it. Us having that conversation and being able to talk about it, I definitely felt comfortable with it."

The Steelers hope Moats becomes comfortable with more than just the number he will wear in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers signed Moats to a one-year, $795,000 contract in March to provide depth at outside linebacker, and it only took a week of organized team activities to show how thin they are at the position.

Starting left outside linebacker Jason Worilds has been sidelined since hurting his calf in the first voluntary practice of the offseason. Taking his place on the first-team defense has been Moats, who is still learning a new defense. He started 12 games at inside linebacker last season for the Bills.

That Moats has been running with the first-string defense is more a commentary on the Steelers' depth at outside linebacker than it is his skills. And Moats played outside linebacker in high school and college before playing both inside and outside for the Bills, so there is a level of comfort for him there.

Moats' ability to play inside and outside is something the Steelers coveted when they pursued the fourth-year veteran after he became an unrestricted free agent.

"That was some of the things that me and [coach Mike] Tomlin talked about through the free-agency process, me having that versatility, being able to play both sides," said Moats, a sixth-round pick by the Bills in 2010. "His thing was he wanted me to come in and at least learn outside first and see what I could do there, especially since that's where my roots are since high school, college and the beginning of my career."

Moats isn't moving from outside linebacker anytime soon.

The Steelers appear to have plenty of depth inside with the addition of first-round pick Ryan Shazier and Sean Spence giving every indication so far that he could help the defense this season.

Meanwhile, there isn't a lot of depth at outside linebacker, a position the Steelers didn't address in the draft.

Moats and Chris Carter, who is still looking for his first career sack, are the most experienced players behind Worilds and starting right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

Moats will gladly stay put, especially since the position he is playing should give him plenty of opportunities to work with Porter.

Porter, who joined the Steelers as a defensive assistant in February, ranks fifth on Pittsburgh's all-time sacks list with 60. But it wasn't just the sheer number of sacks Porter piled up that captivated youngsters like Moats when they were growing up.

"He kicked that dirt up on you," Moats, 26, said with a laugh. "A couple of times I was watching him on TV and he was so fired up about to fight people. That's what we need. I feel like getting that type of mindset definitely helps us out."