Third-year Pittsburgh Steelers first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones may not have lit up the stats sheet, as usual playing in a rotation at right outside linebacker with James Harrison, but he did orchestrate the biggest play of his career, which helped Pittsburgh win their first playoff game in five years.
The Steelers were able to secure a couple of field goals in the first half to take a 6-0 lead into the third quarter, but the Bengals quickly jumped out into striking distance after Jeremy Hill broke out by far their best run of the day, a 38-yarder with a nice cut to the outside, racing up the right sideline all the way down to the 29-yard line, into field goal range.
It was on the very next play that Jones bull rushed through left tackle Andrew Whitworth, outstretching his arm beyond the offensive lineman and knocking the ball out of the grasp of quarterback AJ McCarron for the sack and strip.
The ball was recovered by Cam Thomas, who returned it, after some confusion, out to the Bengals’ 49-yard line, with a 15-yard penalty giving the Steelers possession back at their own 36. But Jones’ play completely stifled the momentum that the home team was beginning to build after a lethargic first half, momentum that they would not regain until the fourth quarter.
The Steelers put themselves in immediate position to score, building off of the momentum swing by rattling off a 44-yard run on an end around by Martavis Bryant all the way down to the Bengals’ 20-yard line, but they were only able to muster three more yards before settling for another field goal, which at least made it a two-possession game at 9-0.
Officially, the play went down as an 11-yard sack for Jones, the first of his postseason career—of just two games, the first in a bit role—and his third of the season, the sixth of his career after posting five career regular season sacks in his first three years.
Obviously, a lot more was expected of Jones as a pass rusher, not just from when he was drafted, but from when he started this season, and while he made strides in all areas of his game, he still produced just two sacks, even if his overall pass rushing productivity was better.
But he has been able to make some impact plays, recording a red zone interception earlier this year and also forcing a fumble. He has three career forced fumbles now after the strip sack last night, which was the second strip sack of his career.
Jones also recorded four tackles in the game, among them a tackle on Tyler Eifert to prevent a third-down conversion on the opening drive. He was also in on the tackle that produced the game-changing fumble on the Bengals’ final drive before the Steelers’ go-ahead score with 14 seconds remaining. He certainly had a big impact play in this game, though the tape will reveal how he played overall.