With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series.
Show me something, Jarvis Jones.
Jarvis Jones is not the sort of player who still has yet to prove that he is capable of having a meaningful role in the league. But he is very much a player who has not come close to demonstrating that he is capable of having the sort of role, and the level of impact, that he was expected to bring to the Steelers when the team took him with the 17th selection in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
In and out and then back into the starting lineup as a rookie, due to injuries ahead of him, Jones had just one sack as a rookie. He posted two sacks in his first three games in his second season, forcing a fumble on the second one, but he also suffered a wrist injury that nearly ended his season and which may still have some slight lingering effects.
Last year, the Steelers brought back James Harrison on a full-time basis after adding him mid-season to replace Jones on the roster in 2014. Though Jones started all 15 games in which he was healthy, it was Harrison who usually wound up playing the bulk of the snaps.
Jones, in fact, played the fewest of all four of the Steelers’ rotational linebackers, including rookie Bud Dupree, who moved into the starting lineup himself by the end of the year. The biggest concern is, as Alex Kozora showed recently, the time at which the snap counts diverged.
According to our charting, Harrison logged over 70 percent of the team’s snaps from the right outside linebacker spot in the ‘closer’ role, in the last five minutes of the first quarter. He played a total of 104 snaps to Jones’ 42. There is an implication therein that says that the coaching staff doesn’t exactly believe Jones can be very effective closing out a game.
The fourth-year linebacker did show meaningful improvements last season, however. Including the postseason, he recorded three sacks and forced two fumbles, reeling in his first interception as well. He has the motor necessary to chase down plays, and his run defense has improved.
But he still has a lot more to show before he is trusted with a bigger role, which is why the Steelers did not exercise their fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Specifically, he needs to show a great deal more consistently. Occasionally, he shows off a nice bull rush. Occasionally, he gets bend around the arc.
There are a lot of occasional traits that need to become consistent traits. He is not going to get by on his athleticism like Dupree, so he has to make sure that he is doing everything right every time. Otherwise his upside will always be as a rotational player.