PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are digging into their deep tradition of linebackers to help their blind-side pass-rush, and this time they're doing more than hiring a new assistant coach.
"I'll give it one more year!" 36-year-old James Harrison tweeted last night.
The former Steelers great is on the verge of agreeing to return to play one more season with the Steelers, according to multiple reports.
The Steelers on Monday placed Jarvis Jones on the Reserve-Injured list with the designation to return after he injured his wrist Sunday night. The Steelers can use only one such designation per season, so Jones can't practice for six weeks, or play in a game for eight weeks.
Until then, the blind side will be home to either Harrison, who had six sacks in 2012 with the Steelers and two sacks in 2013 with the Cincinnati Bengals, or Arthur Moats, who has six sacks in his five-year career, the latest of which came Sunday night when he took down Cam Newton as Jones' immediate replacement.
Jones had just caused Newton to fumble an instant before slamming his right wrist against the left leg of Brett Keisel, who was collapsing Newton's pocket from the other end.
Jones left the game in the third quarter for Moats, a fifth-year pro with 20 career starts for the Buffalo Bills.
"I'm very comfortable," Moats said of his understanding of the Steelers' defense. "For me, playing on the edge outside, that's something I've done my whole career, as far as college and high school. When I went to Buffalo it was different moving inside, but ultimately I feel the transition has been really natural for me."
"He knows everything," said the Steelers' other OLB, Jason Worilds, who has known Moats since both were ballyhooed western Virginia pass-rushers in the 2010 draft. Worilds, out of Virginia Tech, and Moats, out of James Madison, were at the same Pro Day workout. At the combine, Moats measured 6-0 1/4, 246 and was timed at 4.69 in the 40. He led the nation in tackles-for-loss in 2009 with 23 1/2 and had 11 sacks as a senior defensive end. He had 29 sacks in his college career and was drafted in the sixth round by the Bills.
"I'm a compact guy," said Moats. "I have good leverage and burst, so that helps out a lot on the edge."
When reminded that Harrison is also "a compact guy," Moats said, "Very true. Very true. And I know early in my career he was definitely a guy I would watch."
Moats couldn't have imagined he would be watching Harrison more closely than ever this season.
Right outside linebacker won't be the only position with a new starter Sunday for the Steelers. Sean Spence will likely replace rookie Ryan Shazier at the mack inside linebacker spot after Shazier injured his MCL in Carolina, and William Gay will replace Ike Taylor at cornerback after Taylor suffered a broken forearm in the game.
Spence, in his third season with the team, missed the first two seasons due to a horrific knee injury in his rookie preseason. However, he understands the scheme, probably better than Shazier, and while Spence's ceiling may not be as high he's a natural tackler who shouldn't be the cause of any fall-off in defensive performance.
Gay has been playing at a high level all season as the Steelers' nickel cornerback, so Taylor's loss won't be too dramatic, either.
But Gay's promotion means that Antwon Blake will enter the field with the nickel package. The third-year corner will play outside and leave Gay in the slot on passing downs.
"I think he's one of the quickest corners that we have," Gay said of Blake. "It's going to be good to watch him grow and develop. It's time now. I mean, he's in the fight."
Blake was "in the fight" right away Sunday night. A few plays after entering the game, Newton tested him deep, and the 5-9 Blake broke up the pass intended for the 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin.
However, on the Panthers' last offensive play Benjamin did manage to beat Blake for a 35-yard touchdown catch.
"That's tough for any corner," Gay said. "We'll correct the film and get ready for Tampa Bay."
"It was too early in the season for pushing it and re-tweaking," explained Foster. "That was the biggest point. We don't want me to have to re-do anything. We'd rather rest it because we've got a stretch. We've got nine more before a bye, so there was no sense in doing that."
Archer, the rookie speed demon, was moving around the locker room without pain.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm sure I'll play.