All signs are pointing to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones making his triumphant return to the field this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Should that wind up being the case, there’s even a chance that the former first-round draft pick will see a considerable amount of playing time due to veteran linebacker James Harrison currently being hobbled by a knee injury that has forced him to miss the first two practices this week.
While everyone is excited about Jones potentially being able to suit up and play for the first time since he dislocated his wrist way back Week 3, expectations probably need to be tempered some.
Waiting to welcome Jones back to the football field Sunday will be Bengals veteran Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who is having a phenomenal season. The ninth-year veteran has yet to surrender a sack so far this season, according to Pro Football Focus, and only once has he allowed quarterback Andy Dalton to be hit.
Prior to suffering his wrist injury, Jones looked like he was starting to turn the corner as a pass rusher as he had recorded two sacks in the 57 pass rushing opportunities that he had. During his talk with the media Thursday, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was asked to talk about the improvements that Jones has made since he came into the league last season. He also hinted that Jones might need a little time to get back to playing like he was prior to him getting injured.
“He improved steadily last year,” said LeBeau. “You can go from the middle of the season on and he was playing really good football. He was playing pretty good football (this year). He got hurt early (in the season). He was looking good in camp. He’s probably going to be a little rusty but he’s a developing, good football player.”
It’s important to remember that Jones has yet to play a down of football in eleven weeks and due to the nature of his injury, you have to also wonder just how much strength he’s lost during his rehab time. The Bengals like to run the football a lot, so expect them to test Jones’ side early and often when and if he’s in the game in an effort to make him show just how strong that rebuilt wrist of his really is.
If the Georgia product is able to pick up where he left off at in September, great, but don’t be surprised if he’s ineffective and doesn’t play a lot, even if Harrison doesn’t play at all.