The Steelers signed outside linebacker Arthur Moats to a 3-year, $7.5 million contract, a considerably larger contract than they signed him to last year at this time (1-year, $900,000). He spent 2014 as a back-up, but produced well with the opportunities he was given.
Here are some reasons why it was a good idea to keep Moats out of free agency, and a bit about what the Steelers can expect with three years of "Da Body."
Moats managed four sacks and he forced two fumbles in a limited number of snaps in 2014. While some can detract from the signing by suggesting the team signed James Harrison after Jarvis Jones went down with injury, and Moats' snaps didn't increase an incredible amount. That's fine, but per snap, none of the four outside linebackers who played for the Steelers last year made more of an impact.
Per snap production
Stretch the aforementioned stats out over a full compliment of snaps - call it 1,000. He'd be at or around 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. When's the last time a Steelers outside linebacker had that kind of production? Probably Harrison five years ago. This is a team that's been dying for above mediocre pass rushing production, and Moats is the one who's given it to them when he's had the opportunity.
Take the previous numbers - 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles - and look at his contract. Then, look at Jones, who had to play just 10 quarters before getting two sacks last year. Then he played the remainder of the year with a surgically repaired wrist. Stretch out his low production per snap over 1,000 snaps, and he'd have roughly eight sacks on a low estimate. The Steelers would be spending less than $3 million in cap dollars to get 19.5 sacks. In 2011, they were spending approximately $17 million for 18 total sacks.
Still able to utilize the draft
The Steelers can still draft an outside linebacker and have that player assume a utility role, perhaps much like the one Moats played last year. That role can help keep either player rested for passing downs, which will make the defense stronger overall. Instead of being thrown in the fire like Jones was in 2013, a rookie can get a decent number of snaps without having the pressure of immediate expectations.
Moats was a recipient of the Bills' Walter Payton Man of the Year award in this time there. He's active in the community. And this story wasn't broken by a beat reporter, Moats himself tweeted the news, addressing Steelers fans directly. This is a guy who wants to be here.