Shortly after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first-round of the 2013 NFL Draft, I speculated that the Georgia product might be doing well to see 100 snaps of playing time during his rookie season because of the complexities involved in learning the defense. On Wednesday, linebackers coach Keith Butler pretty much backed up my thoughts when he talked to the media after practice.
\’\’He doesn\’t exactly know what we require from him,\’\’ Butler said per Will Graves of the Associated Press. \’\’It\’s not like in college, even though he played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. It doesn\’t mean he can be plugged right in.\’\’
Butler didn\’t stop there when talking about Jones as he also let it be known that he wasn\’t going to jeopardize the defense in order to get him playing time.
“You play people when they\’re ready to play and what I mean by that is when they know what they\’re doing,” said Butler. “If they don\’t know what they\’re doing, they hurt the dadgum defense, and then it\’s not fair to the rest of the guys to have him out on the field. He knows that and I\’ve talked to him about it. So before he plays, he\’s got to know what he\’s doing.”
As we sit here right now in June, Jones is behind first-year starter Jason Worilds and possibly even second-year linebacker Adrian Robinson, who is getting a good portion of his reps on the right side. Butler was asked about Worilds on Wednesday, and he had positive things to say about the fourth-year linebacker.
“He\’s doing very well. He\’s doing good,” said Butler. He understands the situation, and all of them do. It\’s a competition between all of them. But you know what, I\’ve never had a situation where I can play three guys and have confidence in them that they\’re going to be pretty good. So we\’ll see what happens.”
If you think that Butler was including Jones in his three players, he wasn\’t and Missy Matthews clarified that on Wednesday\’s edition of Steelers Live. She said Butler was referring to Worilds, Robinson and Chris Carter, who has been getting the majority of his snaps in practice on the left side behind starter LaMarr Woodley.
To wrap up his thoughts on Jones, Butler said they are still trying to break him of some bad habits that he carried over from his playing days at Georgia.
“In college, he kind of freelanced a little bit, and we\’re a little more disciplined in what we ask them to do and the techniques we ask them to use in the passing game,” Butler said, according to Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “All he did (at Georgia) was drop straight back and look at the quarterback. We\’re asking him to do a lot of different things in terms of pass coverage, and that\’s not one of them. We\’ve got to get him out of that habit, and he\’s willing to get out of that habit.”
The only thing that Jones has in common with former Steelers linebacker Kendrell Bell, who was the last rookie to start on defense in Week 1 of the regular season way back in 2001, is the fact that both came out of Georgia. There is a lot more to playing the outside linebacker position in the Steelers 3-4 defense then just rushing passer.
Safety Troy Polamalu best described what it\’s like for a Steelers rookie defensive player on Wednesday.
“It\’s like trying to teach algebra to basic math,” Polamalu said. “You\’ve got to almost erase their career and what they\’ve learned to this point and start anew with this defense.”
Baring a few injuries, Jones will likely spend most of his rookie season trying to force turnovers on special teams while learning more about the defense in practice. If he\’s lucky, the Steelers will blow out a few teams during the regular season so that he can get a few snaps of real playing time. In other words, I wouldn\’t pencil him in as a candidate for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.