Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats was something of a surprise signing this offseason.
Not that he wasn't a talented player, or would otherwise be sweeping parking lots somewhere. The Steelers needed a versatile linebacker to fill depth behind entrenched starters, and they needed a player to contribute at a high level on special teams.
The cleat fit pretty nicely.
Moats' signing signaled concretely longtime Steelers linebacker Stevenson Sylvester would be looking for another team to provide similar depth. Sylvester has been signed and cut from the Steelers as often as any other player, and had injuries not continued to spring up, he may have landed the one-year deal Pittsburgh gave Moats.
Sylvester was the guy the Steelers called on for help against Green Bay last season, when OLB Jarvis Jones came down with illness before the game. While Chris Carter started the game, Sylvester played a large amount of snaps, and even notched his first NFL sack - until a penalty wiped it away.
The Steelers chose to move on, and Sylvester found himself a new home, in training camp at least, with the Buffalo Bills.
Those Bills are in Latrobe, gearing up for two days of practices against the Steelers. Quietly, Moats against his old team and Sylvester against his, few will notice what was essentially the trade of one veteran linebacker for another.
That's the way of things between the Bills and Steelers nowadays. Probably why they're compelled to share practices together. Former Steelers personnel man Doug Whaley is now the Bills' general manager. Former players tend to find their way to organizations run by former personnel.
Frank Summers, Kraig Urbik, Corbin Bryant, Dennis Dixon, Ike Igbinosun, Brian Moorman, Frank Summers, Doug Legursky and Sylvester all have spent at least some time with the Steelers before ending up in Buffalo in 2014. They sweat it out in Latrobe before visiting Pittsford, N.Y., and now they're headed back to Western Pa.
While most would understand it's a business, and their releases came for, theoretically, viable reasons, all must feel at least some surge of extra energy in the opportunity to perform well against the team handing them their respective releases or the decision to not sign them. Urbik, the team's third round pick in 2009, landed with Buffalo after being released by the Steelers in training camp and has had a decent career. Legursky was allowed to pursue free agency, largely because the Steelers found their utility back-up with center capability. Except, they turned him into their left tackle, and that's where Kelvin Beachum is today.
Dennis Dixon started games for the Steelers at quarterback, and won one as well. They aren't all refuse picked off the pile by Buffalo. There are starters and key back-ups. There are contributory-rich depth players.
The Bills are building their own foundation where, at some point, perhaps the Steelers can feel value can be added with the addition of players the Bills didn't keep. They added Moats, after all, a player who, by most accounts, seemed simply to be too versatile to win one spot on the heightened contract of a veteran player.
Buffalo's defense is stacked with talent, and it's understandable why they don't see it in their best financial interests to keep Moats if he's not going to see time. Sylvester, perhaps, comes at a cheaper price.