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Steelers notebook: Arthur Moats' big game goes unrewarded by Mike Tomlin

| Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 8:48 a.m.
Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats celebrates his sack of quarterback Geno Smith during the fourth quarter of the Steelers' 20-12 win over the New York Giants on Friday night.
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Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats celebrates his sack of quarterback Geno Smith during the fourth quarter of the Steelers' 20-12 win over the New York Giants on Friday night.
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats (55) celebrates with teammates against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats (55) celebrates with teammates against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — He nearly matched his sacks total from the 2016 season. He also did something he never accomplished in 113 career regular-season and playoff games when he intercepted a pass, a turnover that led to the go-ahead points.

All of this, and Arthur Moats couldn't even get a simple pat on the back from his coach.

“To be honest, he did what he was supposed to do,” Mike Tomlin said after the Steelers' 20-12 win over the New York Giants in their preseason opener. “He was like the 11th grader in a JV game at the end. He's supposed to dominate under those circumstances, and he did.”

It's true that Moats, whose three sacks Friday night were one-half shy of his 2016 total, did his best work in the second half when the Giants had second- and third-stringers on the field. Moats, however, was in the game against the Giants' scrubs out of necessity.

Because Bud Dupree, James Harrison, Anthony Chickillo and seventh-round draft pick Keion Adams didn't dress, the Steelers had only three healthy outside linebackers. Moats and first-round pick T.J. Watt (two sacks) got most of the work, with first-year player Farrington Huguenin (one sack) rotating in.

Moats laughed off Tomlin's comments, but he didn't apologize for his performance.

“Anytime you get the opportunity, you want to be productive, and that's what I was thinking about,” he said. “In regards to the sacks, the first one (in the first half) was more of a coverage sack, but the second two were on the (Giants') second tackle that was in there.

“I felt like if I'm out here with the 2s, you should be out here (competing), too.”

In the third quarter, with Geno Smith at quarterback, Moats did something that had eluded him in seven NFL seasons. He stepped in front of Smith's pass at the Giants' 34, cradled the ball and returned it 20 yards. This set up Chris Boswell's 37-yard field goal that pushed the Steelers ahead for good, 13-12.

“Coach T always talks about me being a college defensive end,” Moats said, “so I have to let him know that I do have hands, and I was like an athlete when I was out there.”

When the season begins, barring injury, Dupree will start on the left side, with Watt and Harrison manning the right. That will leave Moats fighting for any snaps he can get.

“I don't get caught up in that stuff,” Moats said. “I focus on making sure I'm out here every day, making sure I get better and when I get the opportunity, I try to be productive.”

Message received Friday night, even if Tomlin didn't want to hear it.

Comeback kids?

Not counting Sammie Coates (PUP list) and Le'Veon Bell (absent), the Steelers brought 88 players to MetLife Stadium on Friday night. That 24 did not play was bothersome to Tomlin.

Most of those 24 players were injured, although undrafted free agents Christian Brown and Lucas Crowley didn't see action.

Three members of the draft class — James Conner, Cameron Sutton and Keion Adams — didn't dress, and second-rounder JuJu Smith-Schuster left in the first half with a concussion.

“It's important that we get some of these guys back that missed some time tonight,” Tomlin said. “The process has run its course, and in order to have a chance, they have to get back on the field. That point was made to them tonight.”

Running man

The Steelers' leading rusher was 245-pound running back Terrell Watson, who had 44 yards on 10 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run that established the final margin. All of Watson's work came in the second half against the Giants' defensive reserves.

“It was really positive, but not unlike what he's shown us on the fields of Latrobe,” Tomlin said. “He's got a distinguishing characteristic. He's a one-cut, downhill guy, and he did some nice things, but you know that doesn't happen in a vacuum. Those guys did a good job blocking, particularly on the touchdown.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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