Mike Tomlin hinted at Jarvis Jones' return to the Pittsburgh Steelers' lineup in his weekly press conference Tuesday, and the second-year outside linebacker echoed that sentiment on Wednesday. The only difference was Jones stated he will definitely be in the lineup when the Steelers play their AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
"I am playing this week, man." Jones told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I am playing. I am looking forward to it. It's been too long and has been a long time coming."
Jones' return is coming at a good time for a defense that has struggled to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Before injuring his wrist in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, Jones had two sacks in three games, doubling his 2013 total as a rookie.
Coming off of a wrist injury is no easy task for an outside linebacker who thrives on the pass rush. How Jones handles the injury with a custom-made brace will ultimately decide how much playing time he sees.
"Guys have been hitting it, and I've been hitting it up against things," Jones said. "It's perfectly fine. I had a chance to use it, and I think I did well."
Believe it or not, even after missing the past nine games, Jones is only 2.5 sacks off of Jason Worilds' total of 4.5 sacks which lead the team through 12 games. The question now remains, can Jones regain even a portion of the form he showed early in his sophomore season?
"I feel that I am still able to do it," "I just have to get back into the thick of things. Hopefully it won't take too many plays to get me back right. I hope to step on the field and continue to do what I have been doing. I had a great week of practice last week, and (Wednesday) was another great day. I feel good. I am running around and using my hands."
How the Steelers divvy up the snaps between Arthur Moats, James Harrison and Jones will be interesting to watch as Harrison is dealing with a nagging knee injury and Jones is essentially starting the season over again.
"We will see how it plays out and see what (my role) will be by Saturday. When I get out there, it's just getting used to making football moves and work some of the soreness out. Other than that, I am fine."