17th Overall Selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Overview: The Pittsburgh Steelers are the epitome of a “next man up” organization. Especially on defense, and even more so at outside linebacker. In the mid 90’s it was Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene, followed by Jason Gildon and Joey Porter, who were then followed by James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley. It was like clock work. The Steelers organization knows that their defensive system works and more importantly they know what type of players fit in their system. After moving on from the controversial James Harrison earlier in the off-season, the Steelers already had a plan in place as 2010 2nd round Pick Jason Worilds had been preparing for two years to be the “next man up” in the steel city. Even though the team had been grooming Worilds for a starting spot, they could not resist drafting Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones with the 17th pick in the draft’s first round. Jones is a James Harrison clone and finished the 2012 college football season as the nations leader in tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles, while dominating the SEC in defensive coordinator Todd Granthams attacking 3-4 defense. Jones is the first pass rushing outside linebacker the Steelers have drafted in the first round in well over 20 years and the reality is that the only reason the Steelers even had a chance at drafting Jones was due to a questionable medical red flag for Spinal stenosis, a condition which could potentially shorten his career. As it stands right now, Jones is healthy and ready to contribute early and often in Pittsburgh and he should develop into the next great Steelers pass rusher sooner rather than later.
Position Battles: After the Steelers drafted Jones back in April, he was immediately entered into a competition with Jason Worilds to start opposite of Lamarr Woodley at outside linebacker. One week into the regular season and Worilds is still successfully holding off Jones for the starting job, but Jones plays heavy snaps in a rotation with Worilds and his playing time should only increase as the season progresses. Jones outperformed Worilds in week 1 against the Tennessee Titans and managed two tackles for loss in his first regular season action. Jones was the most disruptive defensive player in college football a season ago and he has remained an explosive and impactful defender in his brief time in Pittsburgh. It remains to be seen if Jones performance in the opener was enough to unseat Worilds as the starter opposite Woodley, but it was a good start and a step in the right direction.
Notable Match-Ups: As a weakside rush linebacker in the Steelers 3-4 defense, Jarvis Jones will be facing off against many of the leagues top left tackles. Two of which are in his own AFC North division, Cleveland Browns blindside protector Joe Thomas is among the top 3 tackles in the NFL, and Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth is one of the most consistent lineman in the NFL. Outside of those 4 divisional match-ups, the Steelers and Jarvis Jones have to be licking their chops at some of the questionable offensive lines on the Steelers schedule. Games against Green Bay Packers rookie David Bakhtiari, Oakland Raiders 2nd rounder Menelik Watson, and the Miami Dolphins Jonathan Martin are all match-ups that Jones is capable of exploiting. The Baltimore Ravens Bryant McKinnie’s career is on the decline but he is still a formidable match-up. As is the up and coming Matt Kalil of the Minnesota Vikings, the 4th overall pick in last years draft. The New York Jets D’Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the better pass protecting tackles in the league and will put the Steelers rookie to the test. The game that Jones may be most looking forward to will be the November 10th game against the Buffalo Bills, whose left tackle Cordy Glenn is a former Georgia Bulldog teammate of Jarvis Jones and the two should be very familiar with one another after practicing against each other for 3 years in Athens.
2014 and Beyond
Unlike most Pittsburgh Steelers defensive rookies, Jarvis Jones will not have to wait long for “his time” to come. Already a key piece in the Steelers front 7, Jones should only see his role and his reps increase as the 2013 moves along. The Steelers defense has quietly undergone a youth movement in recent seasons. Moving on from veterans James Harrison, James Farrior, Casey Hampton, and Aaron Smith in favor of Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, Steve McLendon, and Ziggy Hood. The Steelers front 7 has been the heart and soul of that organization since the mid 90’s and that dynamic does not look as though it will be changing any time soon. With Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense still struggling to find an identity under coordinator Todd Haley, the pressure will be on the Steelers defense to shut down offenses and create turnovers. Causing turnovers and disrupting offenses is what Jarvis Jones does best.