December 10, 2015
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 6: Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Indianapolis Colts scrambles as James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers applies pressure during the second half of the game at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Arthur Moats revealed the secret formula of how the Pittsburgh Steelers deploy their deep pool of outside linebackers.
''Three and out, turnover, sack, you go back out there. If not, rotate,'' Moats said. ''You just go out there and perform. It's that simple. I feel like you all (media) play into it more.''
Moats and the rest of the outside linebackers played like they didn't want to come out of the game last Sunday night in a 45-10 rout of the Indianapolis Colts.
James Harrison had three sacks in the fourth quarter while Jarvis Jones had his first career interception and Vince Williams had seven tackles and a fumble recovery.
While Moats and Jones are technically the starters, Harrison and rookie Bud Dupree also see playing of time while Williams gets some snaps at both the outside and inside positions.
Moats and Harrison were in for 37 plays against the Colts while Jones and Dupree got 21 snaps apiece.
The outside linebackers have made it work because they have accepted defensive coordinator Keith Butler's system of playing time and coach Mike Tomlin says that unit ''has a trajectory that is going up.''
''You definitely feel fresh, you're not playing 60 snaps, you're playing a smaller portion, maybe between 20 and 30,'' Moats said. ''To get more you understand you have to go out there and produce. And when you've got a talented group like we do, if you come off the field you're giving up an opportunity and that next man up is definitely going to step up and make those plays.''
Added Jones: ''If you're out there, you feel like you get some good rushes, you feel like you made some plays, they're not going to take you out when you're on a hot streak.''
The outside linebackers should not require much motivation to want to stay on the field Sunday when the Steelers (7-5) play at the Cincinnati Bengals (10-2).
It is a must-win game for the Steelers if they want to repeat as AFC North champions as they trail the first-place Bengals by three games with just four to play. Cincinnati would wrap up the division title with a win and they beat the Steelers 16-10 at Pittsburgh on Nov. 1.
Harrison seems ready for showdown with the Bengals, the only team he has played for beside the Steelers in his 13-year career as he spent the 2013 in Cincinnati but was used sparingly. The way the 37-year-old played in the fourth quarter against the Colts made it seem like he had turned back the hands of time to 2008 when he was the NFL defensive player of the year.
Butler, though, is not surprised by anything Harrison does.
''James has been a good football player for a long time here,'' Butler said Thursday. ''He's played outside linebacker. He's played inside linebacker. I call him sawed-off, because he's a little bit short. He is so powerful and he's got such good leverage, it's very difficult to block him. Even at his age, because he works his butt off.
''There's no secret to why he's doing the things he's doing, it's because he works his butt off. If you want to be a good player in this league, that's all you have to do.''
NOTES: Cornerback William Gay was a full participant in practice Thursday after being released from the NFL concussion protocol, meaning he should be able to keep his consecutive games played streak of 141 alive Sunday. That is the Steelers' longest active streak . Tight end Heath Miller(ribs) was a limited participant after sitting out Wednesday and missing last week's game. . Linebacker Sean Spence (hamstring), who also missed the win over Indianapolis, was a full participant after being limited Wednesday.