Let’s be honest. If someone came up to you and asked, “Who should be starting at right outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Jarvis Jones or James Harrison?” At least 9 out of 10 fans polled would answer Harrison without question. Shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering Harrison’s ridiculous resume as a player, despite being 38-years-old this season. However, what most might not be seeing is Jarvis Jones having a career year.
Before fans flock to the comment section denouncing my fanhood, realize a career year for Jones is just that — a career year for him, not the gold standard of pass rushers who have donned the black and gold.
Jones has been disruptive, and it was evident in the first half of the Week 7 game against the New England Patriots when his impact was felt in the form of tackles for losses, a pass defense and a forced and recovered fumble. After such a performance, you would think the team would be wanting to see more of Jones on the field, and that is exactly what OLB coach Joey Porter is suggesting they do with their former 1st round draft choice.
“He definitely needs to be on the field more,” Porter told Dale Lolley of the Washington Observer-Reporter. “I’m trying to make sure he’s out there, but with Harrison, I can’t let him sit for a long time because he’s an older guy. If he doesn’t get in there at some point and time and get warmed up, it’s hard for that 38-year-old body to get going. So I have to get him in the game or riding a bike to keep him warm. But Jarvis is definitely playing real, real well to this point.”
It is at this point you see the issues with having a rotation at the OLB position. Jarvis Jones is playing well, but the team feels need to get Harrison in the game, in Porter’s words, to make sure his aging body is able to get warmed up.
With that said, Jones has played 60-percent of the team’s defensive snaps, more than any other OLB on the team’s roster, but the plan from the start of the season was always to have Jones opposite second year pass rusher Bud Dupree. Dupree’s absence has left a gaping hole at the OLB position which hasn’t been filled to date.
Dupree has openly stated he hopes to return to practice in Week 10, but how long it takes him to get back on the playing field is anyone’s guess.
“We know he’s been out of ball for a while,” said Porter. “We’ll be able to evaluate him as he comes in and practices and see what he’s doing from that standpoint. I know from a mental standpoint, we’re not doing anything different. He’s been sitting in the meeting room. He’s going to be fine there. It’s really about him getting out on the field and doing it. He hasn’t been doing it in a long time. All that time training and getting ready and then missing that time, you can’t just say you’re going to go out there and pick up where you left off. That doesn’t happen like that.”
Until Dupree returns, Jones could see more time on the left side of the defense, something he has done throughout the season on occasion, but ultimately he, and Porter, know all too well what will define his success or failures in Pittsburgh — sacks.
“I tell those guys all the time, ‘We’re in Pittsburgh. We play outside linebacker. We’re going to get judged by production in the sack game,’” Porter said. “If you have nine or 10 tackles, that’s all good but we’re going to get judged for (sacks). Until (Jones) does that, you aren’t going to see the good things he is doing better than he has.”
Jones needs to be on the field and rushing the passer for this to happen, and it seems the Steelers are doing their best to get him on the field more after the bye week.