Jarvis Jones started in his rookie season, and was relatively unspectacular. The following season held more promise, but Jones broke his wrist in Week 2, and nothing came of it. He then was told that he needed to add weight to help with his playing, and at the beginning of last season weighed up to 270-pounds. He played as part of a four-man outside linebacker rotation, and played the least amount of snaps between them. Bearing in mind that James Harrison had more snaps than him, and is now 38, this does not bode well for Jones.
In reaction to this, Jones was then told he needed to lose some weight, and now is a leaner 250-pounds. Does this mean anything for Jones' future in Pittsburgh?
Triblive recently covered this in an interview with Jones, in reference to the Steelers not picking up his fifth year option. If Pittsburgh had picked up his fifth year option, Jones would have been given a guaranteed $8.4 million for the 2017 season. Being as this was not the case, Jones will hit the free agent market at the end of this coming season. On top of this, when a team picks up a player's fifth year option, it means that the team is likely to be looking to extend the contract long-term. The Steelers did this with Cameron Heyward, by giving him a five-year deal worth $59.25 million after three months after picking up his fifth year option last year. They also did this with David DeCastro, and everyone is expecting a long-term deal to be done with the first round guard before the 2016 season.
Jones' response to this?
"I kind of understand the decision, and I kind of knew before it happened anyway...That's why I wasn't that jacked up about it. I appreciated it. It motivated me."
Note the use of the word "motivated". According to some, Jones seems to lack motivation in some way. Triblive interprets this to help with his "easy going" attitude. Easy going seems like a nice way of saying that Jones is too relaxed in his position, considering the quality of play he has given over the last few years. In this way, the Steelers see that Jones is not doing enough to help make plays and therefore help himself, and ultimately the team. Here are some comments from defensive coordinator Keith Butler that back this up:
"That's the reason why we did it...we like Jarvis. There is nothing wrong with putting him in that situation. Sure, if he was a Pro Bowler, we would get all the stuff sewn up, but he hasn't done that. I would rather put him in (this) situation to see how he responds"
I see this as Butler saying that the reason Jones' fifth year option was not picked up is because Jones, although a good enough person and teammate, is not showing the work ethic to improve his game and to warrant the money that Pittsburgh would give him.
How does this tie into Jones' weight loss? Well, being as he said this has motivated him, perhaps the weight loss is evidence to show that he is newly motivated and wants to stay with the team, regardless of this being a contract year.
Keith Butler went on to say in the NFL a player has to "perform under pressure". Clearly Jones' productivity is not up to the standard of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and either that needs to change, or Jones needs to go.
Jones gave further comments in all of this:
"I have to be more productive...I have to be an all-around better football player, regardless if it is sacks or making plays on special teams. Whatever it is, I have to be productive and make plays. Injuries and whatever it is, those years are gone. I am going to focus on what I can control. It happened, so it is what it is."
Clearly Jones understands that due to his broken wrist in his second season in the NFL affected him, which could have affected his work ethic. He wants to put that behind him. He wants to be a better football player, and hopefully that is something we will see in the regular season. I personally would like to see him play more snaps, at least in the preseason, to see whether or not this weight loss and new found motivation can materials itself into better playing on the field.
What could happen to the Steelers if Jones has an all-pro year is he will test free agency to see if someone offers him a big lucrative contract, regardless of whether this is in Pittsburgh or not. If he doesn't have a great year, he will likely be let go by the Steelers.
Regardless of the possible eventualities, Jones says this:
"I am taking everything in stride and staying positive and go play some football...You have to look at the bright side of things, the positive side of things, because at the end of the day it is going to be their decision, not mine."
This is a good mentality to have, if Jones really does just want to play football and has put in the effort to garner a starting spot on any team, then a starting spot will materialize.
If Jones has put in the extra effort to stay with Pittsburgh, as his recent weight loss and comments suggest, then he should stay. With the already mentioned age of Harrison gradually approaching 40, it would certainly be a more comfortable position to have another good player ready to hit the gridiron when Harrison retires. If he hasn't, then Jones will leave. Regardless, if anything positive can come out of this, it is that Jones has new found motivation to play football - and the optimist in me says that this can only mean good things for Pittsburgh.