Whether Jarvis Jones starts for the Steelers is irrelevant; variety and depth key for Steelers' front seven

Jared Wickerham

Using both rookie Jarvis Jones and veteran Jason Worilds seems inevitable for the Steelers' defense, and whichever one starts won't make a difference.

Len Pasquarelli recently ran with the notion of Steelers rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones getting the starting nod, mostly based on the idea of Jones being a "pure" outside linebacker, unlike Jason Worilds and LaMarr Woodley and many others - converted college defensive ends drafted much lower than the 17th overall pick.

Is this a question of his familiarity with starting a play on two feet instead of a three-point stance?

The height of the developmental ceilings for Jones and Worilds (the main competitors for the Steelers' starting right outside linebacker position) is something that can be debated, likely with Jones getting an advantage, but let's not dismiss the simple notion of using multiple players.

Just not at the same time.

If Worilds is clearly inferior to Jones athletically but holds an advantage in understanding the defense, and Jones has clear physical ability but his knowledge of the outside linebacker position comes from simpler college schemes, then why can't they be used in "situational football," as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin often says?

It's easy to paint what will likely be the most often-discussed position battle this training camp as being as simple as Worilds vs. Jones, but this seems more like "Tomlin/Dick LeBeau/Keith Butler vs. The Game of Football." Put the head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in a lab for an offseason, and see what kinds of packages they can create to put both of them on the field at the same time.

It doesn't seem to make sense that Worilds is so easily replaceable that his snap count can be dropped to Steve McLendon-in-2012 levels, while Jones simply takes over. Jones is a relentless pass rusher with underrated coverage skills. Add in the pass rush ability of McLendon (another quiet weapon for the Steelers this year), the Steelers very well could take on a look like the San Francisco 49ers -- lots of different looks with many of them out of a nickel package, counting on pressure from different combinations of 2-4 looks.

If that's the first play of the game, thus anointing Jones a "starter," then so be it. It seems more likely the Steelers will go deeper in their front seven than they have in recent years, and Jones and Worilds will certainly both be a part of that plan.


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