LATROBE, Pa. – It was tough saying goodbye to Buffalo for Arthur Moats, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker is loving his new home.
“The adjustment period has definitely gone well,” Moats said Thursday night after the Bills and Steelers finished their second of two joint practices at Saint Vincent College. “It feels really good to be out here.”
Moats spent the first four seasons of his professional career with the Bills. He was a steady performer on the field, but his work off of it will be remembered far longer in Western New York.
Moats was the Bills’ 2013 recipient of the Walter Payton Award, which is given annually to a player for his contributions in the community. He was heavily involved with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, hosted students on a holiday shopping spree as part of the Closing the Gap schools program and made numerous school visits, including as part of the NFL’s Play 60 initiative to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children.
Moats also donated $5,000 to his high school football program in Portsmouth, Va. The relationship he had with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin – who’s from the same area – is one of the reasons he chose to sign with Pittsburgh.
“The legacy that is here with the Steelers’ defense, coach Dick LeBeau, I just felt really comfortable with the situation,” he said. “Buffalo will always have a special place in my heart, but this was what’s best for my career.”
Moats started 12 games and had 54 tackles for the Bills in 2013, both career highs, but the team elected not to re-sign him.
“It was just a different view. They were going in a different direction, so I respected that and moved on,” he said. “I feel like both organizations are top notch. Both have great history and great fan bases.”
With the Bills, Moats bounced between positions, playing both inside and outside linebacker as well as some defensive end. With the Steelers, he’s being used as an outside edge rusher and special-teams performer. He had a would-be sack of Bills quarterback EJ Manuel during Thursday’s practice.
“That was one thing about Buffalo – it definitely made me versatile,” he said.
Before he watched his Buffalo Bills go through a joint practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday, Doug Whaley took time out to take part in a ceremony for one of his mentors.
The Steelers dedicated a bench to former scout Bill Nunn Jr., who died earlier this year.
“A lot of you guys who know me know that he’s one of the main reasons I’m in front of you today,” Whaley said.
Nunn worked for the Steelers for 47 years, and was credited with finding many of the players who helped the franchise dominate during the 1970s, when it made six trips to the Super Bowl, winning four times.
The Bill Nunn Memorial Bench overlooks Chuck Noll Field, where the Steelers practice at training camp.
“For the last many years, the first stop I would make, and the first stop many people would make on the way down to practice would be right here,” Steelers President Art Rooney II told his team’s official website. “Bill would be sitting here, and I would sit here for a few minutes with Bill getting the wisdom of the day. We thought it was an appropriate place to have a permanent marker and a place where people could come and sit in the same spot where Bill sat.”
Whaley started his NFL career in the Steelers’ personnel department, working closely with Nunn.
“The main thing is that if you believe it, don’t be afraid to step on the table and make the deal,” Whaley said of what he learned from Nunn. “Obviously, you guys can see that that’s something I do.”
The obvious example of that would be Whaley’s bold move to trade up for Sammy Watkins in this year’s draft, giving up a 2015 first-round pick in the process. Whaley said Nunn’s influence was in the back of his mind the day he pulled the trigger on that deal.
“If you believe in it and it’s fair – don’t be crazy – but if it’s fair then go ahead,” Whaley said.
Tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), linebacker Ty Powell (medical), kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) and left guard Chris Williams (back) did not participate in practice for the Bills.
The two teams will take today off before meeting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a preseason game at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.