When the Pittsburgh Steelers made Jarvis Jones the 17th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, expectations were sky high. Much like guard David DeCastro in the 2012 NFL Draft, Jones wasn’t expected to be available when the Steelers were on the clock. With the retirement of stalwart James Harrison and the question marks surrounding Jason Worilds, a pass rusher was sorely needed. A two-time All American at the University of Georgia, he was highly regarded as the top pass rusher coming out in the draft that year, but his stock took a bit of a hit following a lackluster showing at the school’s pro day. There, Jones ran a 4.9 in the 40-yard dash, a time that a lot of defensive lineman 50 pounds heavier than Jones exceed. This showing, coupled with the medical reports that he suffers from spinal stenosis, caused Jones to slide to the 17th pick, and into the Steelers’ lap.
Nicknamed “Dawg Bones Jones” at Georgia, he was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, and expected to add some explosiveness to an average Steelers’ pass rush. After a disappointing rookie season where he only recorded 1 sack, the questions started swirling about Jones lacking the bulk required to play the position, and much was said about his main offseason priority being pretty simple: hit the weight room. One of his offseason training partners is his former college teammate and Pro Bowl outside linebacker of the Kansas City Chiefs, Justin Houston. About to become a very rich man, Houston is arguably one of the top pass rushers in the league, but equally as strong holding the point of attack against the run. After a full offseason, Jones began the 2014 season showing a vast difference from his 2013 campaign, recording two sacks within the first three games. Perhaps a defining play was also the one that affected his promising season the most, after suffering a dislocated wrist on a strip-sack of Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton. As we all know, football is a game of momentum, and this play opened the floodgates all over the Panthers. Leading 9-3, Worilds recovered Jones’s forced fumble, and the Steelers cashed in, not only this drive but three more times as well, winning 37-19.
Unfortunately, on that play it pretty much put a clamp on Jones’s promising sophomore season, but gave fans a sneak peek at the havoc-wreaking presence he can potentially have for the team. He was placed on the injured reserve/return list and obviously the team went and lured fan favorite Harrison out of retirement. Nobody could have fathomed Harrison playing as well as he did, and even when Jones returned from his nine-game absence, the lack of strength of his wrist coupled with the stellar play by Harrison, led to him playing sparingly. From Jones’ perspective though, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I pick up little things from him, the way he takes notes, the way he approaches his work in the building, on the field,” Jones said regarding Harrison. “Just little things, different techniques he uses, I just pay attention to a lot of it. Some of the things, hopefully, I can take from him and put in my package, and it’ll make me a better player.”
With another offseason looming, the questions surrounding Harrison returning in 2015 are abuzz. Harrison’s listed weight is 242 pounds, although he admitted to playing at over 260 pounds this year. We all know the well documented weight issues for former Steeler LaMarr Woodley, but earlier in his career he was right around 265 pounds. Jones is listed at 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, so needless to say, there’s more work to be done in the weight room in terms of adding strength. What better way to get Jones to pack on muscle than having the group around him that he does? Having a defensive assistant like Joey Porter can only help the young linebacker. It also never hurts to have a close friend and workout partner who’s arguably the best 3-4 outside linebacker in the league than Houston, who led the NFL in sacks in 2014 with 22. And simply “Googling” James Harrison will bring up videos of him posting freakish numbers on the bench or show him doing push-ups with All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, a 304-pound man, sitting on his back. The talent is there for Jones and always has been. It’s a matter of him putting the pieces together this offseason in hopes that year three will be his coming out party.