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How has Jamir Jones grown since his first stint with the Steelers?

After playing three games with the Steelers in 2021, Jones spent time with two other franchises before returning back to Pittsburgh.

Los Angeles Rams v Houston Texans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed into the regular season after establishing their 53-man roster. In doing so, they made two trades ahead of roster cuts to try to bring depth to the offensive line and outside linebacker rooms. additionally, the Steelers made a waiver claim to bring back Jamir Jones after nearly a year away from the team. But what does Jones bring to the Steelers to help the defense? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Jamir Jones made the Steelers 2021 roster as a UDFA after he was signed following Notre Dame’s pro day that spring when the NFL allowed players from 2020 who were not on an NFL roster to participate. Jones ultimately appeared in three games for the Steelers where he had three tackles and one quarterback hit. In all, Jones played 36 defensive snaps and 29 special teams snaps.

After being claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Rams, Jones appeared in 10 games where he had five tackles and a quarterback hit. Jones played 51 defensive snaps but logged 206 special team snaps. After being released by the Rams late in the year and claimed off waivers by Jacksonville, he appeared in two games with two tackles on 25 defensive snaps and 15 special team snaps.

With all that jumping around, it was tough for Jones to really get settled with one particular team. So how did it show up on the film?

The Film Line:

When T.J. Watt was injured in Week 2 of 2021, Jamir Jones got his first chance to play in an NFL game.

Steelers vs. Raiders, 3rd quarter, 6:32.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the top of the screen.

In his first action Jamir Jones showed functional strength and confidence, even if this was his only real impactful play. His pass rush wasn’t good, and the drop off in pass rush from T.J. Watt to Jamir Jones was the biggest difference in the Raiders offensive success in the second half of the game. Being a significant drop-off in pass-rush from T.J. Watt isn’t exactly damning though.

Jamir Jones would start the next week, as both Watt and Alex Highsmith were out for the game.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 1st quarter, 12:14.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the top of the screen.

Jones came pretty close to a sack early in the game. Burrow gets Melvin Ingram to bite on his fake to the outside before spinning off, and Ingram takes out himself and Jones. One thing that I like in this play is Jones running down Burrow at the end. Jones has a high motor and a lot of hustle, something that is a major requirement to play backup LB for Mike Tomlin.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 3rd quarter, 14:56.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

Jones is the backside defender here, and he’s looking to stop any cutback. The problem here is he lets the play get a bit too far in front of him, and Joe Mixon is able to slip past him for a good gain. That’s the kind of plays you have to learn from, and Jones wouldn’t get much opportunity for that.

Because both starting OLB’s were out, the Steelers had elevated Derrek Tuszka from the practice squad for this game, and over the course of the game the inexperienced 23-year-old Jones lost snaps to the 25-year-old Tuszka.

Afterwards the Steelers moved Tuszka to the active roster. Jones failed to clear waivers and joined the Los Angeles Rams.

Rams vs. Giants, 4th quarter, 8:41.

Jamir Jones (#44) is the edge defender to the top of the screen.

A common theme of Jamir Jones’ 2021 season is getting close to making plays, but not pulling it off. Here is a great example where Jones was inches from a strip sack but instead it turned into a pass interference call.

Rams vs. Giants, 4th quarter, 0:38.

Jamir Jones (#44) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

The same pass rush arc gets him a quarterback hit on this play because the quarterback steps backwards to avoid the pressure coming up the middle. The pressure helps end the game. These two plays on the Rams are in garbage time as the game is out of reach for the Giants, but they still show his pass rush and how it isn’t quite there yet.

In both clips Jones is pushed farther up his arc as he tries to turn the corner. There’s a good amount of work he needs to do, but he shows the basics to build on. He just needs to build on it.

Jones wouldn’t play on defense for the Rams again, but would be a staple on special teams until the Rams cut him on Christmas day. That’s life in the NFL. On the 28th of December Jones joined the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were having Covid-19 and injury issues. Five days later he was playing for them.

Jaguars vs. Patriots, 2nd quarter, 8:12.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

This isn’t what you want to see. Jones does a good job to start the play, but that missed tackle is just sad.

Jaguars vs. Patriots, 3rd quarter, 14:16.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

That’s not good either. At this point of the season, the 23-year-old Jones was on his third team of the season, and with almost no time to learn a different defense for a team in a dumpster fire season, the end result was pretty bad.

Jamir Jones started the 2021 season looking like a player that was close to putting it together and being an NFL level backup. He ended it as a player that looked lost.

The Point:

The Steelers are clearly banking on Jones finding his game again in the Steelers system, and are giving him the chance to develop what they tried to give him in 2021. Jones’ problem is he wasn’t ready to be relied on, but was close enough that he wouldn’t survive on a practice squad. He’s still facing that problem now. Jacksonville kept him on an ERFA contract, but when they cut him the Steelers claimed him. Jamir Jones hasn’t had a choice where to go since he signed with the Steelers in April of 2021 as every time he has been cut, he has been claimed off waivers.

So while the Steelers have him right now, if his bouncing around different defenses has him in the same place again this season, and the Steelers can’t hide him on the bottom of their depth chart, he’s unlikely to make it through waivers to their practice squad, and he’ll likely be bouncing around the NFL again in 2022.