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Arthur Moats ready to replace Steelers injured OLB Jarvis Jones

Amid talk of the return of James Harrison, 2014 free-agent acquisition Arthur Moats is ready to take on a starting role.

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Streeter Lecka

PITTSBURGH -- Arthur Moats has had moderate success during his previous four NFL seasons, all with the Buffalo Bills, but it appears that the first-year Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker has a chance to make an even bigger impact.

Moats replaced injured second-year pro Jarvis Jones, the club's 2013 No. 1 pick, at right outside linebacker against the Carolina Panthers Sunday night. Jones suffered a wrist injury that reportedly needed surgery.

It was reported Monday the Steelers placed Jones on Injured Reserve/Designated to return following the surgery. That means Moats will be in the Steelers' starting lineup for the long haul.

"I'm ready,'' Moats said Monday. "You have to make sure you're ready to go, as far as your film preparation is concerned and on the field with your physical preparation, and then you're ready when your number is called and you can go in there and be productive. You know, you can't say, 'Man, I wasn't ready. I didn't get that rep or see that look.' You have to be ready for anything.''

Jones was pass-rushing hard and appeared to be driven into Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. He hit Newton's elbow and caused him to fumble. It was the Steelers' first takeaway of the season and Jones' second sack, but Jones also suffered a wrist injury on the play.

However long Jones is out -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin likely will indicate that Tuesday during his weekly press conference -- or who replaces him, Moats will be ready to go.

"Any decision about who's going to play comes from above my pay grade,'' Moats said. "So, like I've said, I just try to prepare every day like I'm going to play, and then when they call my number I can go in there and make sure that I produce.''

Moats got an endorsement from his cohort at outside linebacker, Jason Worilds.

"Moats is a good player,'' Worilds said. "We came up together (to the NFL), and I got to see him while he was at James Madison. We brought him in from Buffalo, so he's had some good years already in this league. He's a good player, and I like what he can do for us.''

Moats appears to be well-suited to play outside linebacker, even though he also can fill in at inside backer if necessary. Moats said there's a reason for that.

"Being that I'm ... I don't want to say a short guy,'' Moats said. "I'm compact, so I have good leverage and burst. So, I feel like that helps me a lot out on the edge. There are definitely pros and cons to the position, as far as my size and stature, but the way this scheme is set up it's beneficial to be on the edge.''

Moats was reminded that another Steelers outside linebacker was compact. One James Harrison was listed at only 6-feet tall, but he terrorized opposing backfields for a handful of seasons for the Steelers.

"That's very true,'' Moats said. "Early in my career, he definitely was a guy that I was watching for that very reason. So, guys like us can get the job done. (And) I've been practicing on both sides, but that's what it is to be a backup."

"You need to know everything about all the spots, and you have to be ready to step right in. Whether it's to give a guy a breather or play an extensive amount of time, you have to be ready. So, every week, it's the same preparation for me. I have to make sure that there is no drop-off.''

The Steelers didn't appear to miss a beat when Moats entered the game for Jones and Sean Spence came in for injured inside backer Ryan Shazier (right knee). The Steelers also lost cornerback Ike Taylor, who had surgery Monday morning for his broken right arm. It was an intense part of the game, but the Steelers' defense held strong.

"As a competitor, you want to go in there when the game is heated like that and it's still a meaningful game,'' Moats said. "Going in there at blowout time, it's cool, but it's great when you're actually in there when you're scratching and clawing for every inch. So, it definitely felt good to be out there for that.''

Worilds believed the Steelers should continue to excel on defense.

"Those were some good players that we lost, but the thing about this defense is that we play together,'' Worilds said. "And I have full confidence that all the guys who have to come in will step up and get the job done. I know that all the guys believe they all can play at a high level.''

Notes: If the defensive alignment continues the way it did against the Panthers, Moats will play for Jones at right outside linebacker and Spence will replace Shazier inside. William Gay will take over for Taylor as a starting cornerback, but move to the slot when the Steelers go to the nickel. Then, Antwon Blake will enter the game as an additional defensive back.

Dale Grdnic is a senior beat writer for Behind The Steel Curtain. Along with covering Pittsburgh area sports for over 20 years, he is the author of "Tales from the Pittsburgh Steelers Sidelines," available here on Amazon.