With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Jarvis Jones, ROLB
It’s hard to say too much about Jarvis Jones’ sophomore season in the NFL, quite simply because there hasn’t been much of one. He suffered a long-term wrist injury midway through the third game of the year, which has kept him on the sidelines until now.
While he has begun practicing after the bye week following the mandatory eight weeks having passed, as dictated by the procedures of the short-term injured reserve list, it’s still unclear just when or if he will return this season.
Despite the fact that he has begun practicing, he still has a ways to go before his wrist is in shape for NFL combat. Beyond that, the Steelers have gotten by with serviceable performances from James Harrison and Arthur Moats in a rotational role over the past eight games, and it seems likely that Harrison will at least begin the final stretch of the season as the starting right outside linebacker.
As far as on-field performance goes, Jones did manage to record two sacks in the two and a half games that he did play, which is twice as much as he managed in all of his rookie season.
He got one in the season opener that was somewhat of a coverage sack, but he showed good awareness in staying with the tight end and then closed on the quarterback when the -opportunity presented itself.
The second sack came in the third game, in which he sort of backed into the quarterback’s arm and forced the ball out, which the Steelers recovered. It was the first turnover that the defense was able to recover all season.
He showed evidence of playing faster and more aggressive, with playmaking instincts, but he also left some plays out on the field, and looked lost at times when asked to drop in coverage. While he was less prone to being driven out of the lane as a pass rusher, there is certainly more to develop in his game from that perspective as well.
If he does manage to get back on the field this season and steal away some reps, it should only benefit the team in both keeping their pass rushers fresh and giving Jones more snaps from which to grow in the future.