During a Thursday interview with Trib Live Radio, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler hinted that veteran linebacker James Harrison might just be the starter ahead of Jarvis Jones on the right side when the 2015 regular-season gets underway. During his Friday press conference ahead of the team’s first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Butler’s comments and specifically about what it is that he needs to see out of Jones rookie Bud Dupree during the preseason in order to work themselves into the snap rotation.
“They’ve got to show us consistent above-the-line play and with that is understanding, and with that is detail, and with that is technique,” said Tomlin. “But I like what they’ve done thus far. [I’m] anxious and excited to watch them play on Sunday night.”
At this point, it’s obvious that veteran Arthur Moats will be starting ahead of Dupree on the left side. However, we still have several weeks to go until we find out if Harrison will indeed get the nod over Jones on the right. While Jones is sure to see a lot of playing time in 2015, it won’t be surprising to see Harrison start games until Jones proves he’s worthy of that distinction.
Linebackers coach Joey Porter said during the draft that Harrison’s snaps will be monitored in 2015. Even so, if he’s still noticeably better than Jones is, he should receive the most snaps during games at the start of the season.
Harrison has yet to practice during training camp as Tomlin would rather save the wear and tear on the veteran right now being as the team reported earlier this year. He will likely get to work sometime next week and it will be interesting to see whether or not he’s getting most of the first-team reps on defense once he’s turned loose.
Jones has also missed some practice time with a biceps injury so far during training camp but it sounds like he’ll be suited up Sunday against the Vikings just the same. He can help his cause tremendously by starting off the preseason with a strong performance. The Steelers really don’t have a lot of outside linebackers on their current 90 man roster so both Jones and Dupree could see a lot of playing time against the Vikings as a result.