In spite of the fact that everyone thus far has been healthy at the position throughout the season, at least in such a way that would cause them to miss playing time, it is interesting, though perhaps not terribly surprising, that third-year outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has seen the least amount of snaps amongst the four-man rotation along both sides.
Through four games, the former first-round draft pick has logged just 117 of a possible 283 snaps, or a couple of clicks above 40 percent. The primary motivating factor in his fewer than expected snaps would be, of course, the influence of James Harrison.
The 37-year-old once-retired former Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison was said to be on an informal pitch count of about 25 snaps per game during the offseason, a statement made by outside linebackers coach Joey Porter after the drafting of edge rusher Bud Dupree in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
That impromptu guideline has been unceremoniously defenestrated—that means, tossed out the window—as Harrison leads all edge rushers with 162 snaps logged, an average of just a hair over 40 snaps per game.
The only game in which Harrison actually hit 25 snaps on the nose was the victory over the Rams, during which the defense was only on the field for 52 plays, meaning that he played just slightly less than half of the team’s snaps.
Jones took up those two extra snaps, logging 27 in that game, the only time thus far this season that he has seen more snaps than Harrison. In fact, in the last game against the Ravens, the Steelers rode the veteran down the stretch, as they did in the season opener as well.
The coaching staff took Jones off the field during the middle of a drive late in the fourth quarter, replacing him with Harrison for what proved to be three short-yardage situations on which the defense forced a turnover on downs.
For those three snaps, and the additional 19 snaps that followed, it was Harrison on the field, and not Jones, chiefly at right outside linebacker, though he was briefly spelled for a five-play stretch by Arthur Moats, with whom he shared the right outside linebacker spot last year during Jones’ injury.
Outside of about half a dozen or so missed tackles on the year, Jones has not necessarily played poorly. He has been generally good in run support, and has registered a handful of pressures, though his performance in that area was at its peak in the season opener.
Thus far, he has nine tackles on the season, and has yet to notch a sack, the only linebacker on the roster with at least 50 snaps played who has failed to do so, including the inside linebackers, three of which have recorded one sack each.
It was largely expected that Jones would see the lion’s share of snaps, other than the fact that it was more or less said, because he is expected to be the long-term starter there.
It is clear that the coaching staff is focused on winning games right now, however, and they feel—perhaps rightly—that Harrison gives them the better opportunity to do so. But it is the rotation of players that is helping to keep him healthy, a factor not to be ignored.