Any casual observer of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers will be quick to point to the team's lack of defensive pressure as the bane of the season. Poor secondary play and an underwhelming pass rush meant the Steelers were rostering one of the poorest defensive units in the league, statistically speaking.
Part of the blame, it seems, has shifted to individual players. And, unfortunately for him, Jarvis Jones has become a lightening rod for criticism.
A first-round draft selection from the University of Georgia, Jones was considered an undersized, yet tenacious pass rusher who was poised to fill the void left by the departure of Pro Bowler Lamarr Woodley and former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. Jones was supposed to become the next great Pittsburgh linebacker, following in the massive footsteps of those before him. The dead horse has been thourghouly beaten, though, as far as the beginnings of Jones' career go, with most fans of the team likely considering the talented edge rusher "a disappointment."
Part of the disappointment was the result of a 2014 campaign in which Jones missed 11 contests with a dislocated wrist. Jones, however, seemed to be on his way to a decent season, collecting two sacks in the first three games.
The sample size is small, of course, but Jones acknowledges he felt as if 2014 could've been a very productive season, according to Scott Brown of ESPN.
"Before my injury I really think I was on the right path of having a good season," Jones said. "Not saying I was going to have a mind-blowing season because we don't know. Coach Joey [Porter] really coached me up and had some good things going and that injury just threw me back."
The Steelers enter the 2015 off-season with many personnel questions, highlighted by the looming loss of OLB Jason Worilds. Even Arthur Moats, who played very well as a fill-in, will be an unrestricted free agent. With Dick LeBeau gone, Jones will enter training camp with every opportunity to become a starter. Remember, it's Jones' Georgia teammate Justin Houston who led the NFL in sacks (22), and the Steelers would likely be thrilled with half of that production.
Criticized for everything from his lack of production to his less-than desirable stature, Jones remains optimistic and hopeful he can become a productive member of a Pittsburgh defense that enters the off-season in rebuilding mode.