The Pittsburgh Steelers know that fourth-year outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is a better player than he is often given credit for. Jarvis Jones knows that he is better than he is often given credit for. His position coach, former Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter, knows that Jones isn’t always given his due.
And all of them understand why that is. And none of them are complaining.
Everybody knows why Jones’ bright spots aren’t highlighted as much as they might warrant, of course. It’s simply because he is not getting sacks—nobody on the team is right now. But Porter knows better than anybody on the team that the barometer for outside linebacker play from the fans, from the media, and, to a great extent from the coaching staff, is sack totals, and pressure totals.
That’s why, while Porter might tell you, as he told reporters yesterday, that Jones is “doing some really good things” and “playing better than he has in the past”, he will also say in the same breath that “we’re going to get judged by production in the sack game”. Because it’s the truth, and it’s far from being unfair.
To his ‘credit’, by the Steelers’ own internal numbers, Jones is in a six-way tie for the second-most pressures on the team on the year, with three, though it should be noted that the team doesn’t classify pressures in the same way that others might—they are clearly much more conservative in what they deem a pressure.
But none of those three pressure for Jones has produced a sack, even if he is coming off a game in which he had a few solid pressures—by my standards anyway—including drawing multiple holding penalties early in the third quarter.
“Minus not having sacks”, Porter said, he sees his starter doing good things, talking about “playing the run well”, making good reads to shoot gaps, and getting tackles. “He is playing much better than he has”, he reiterated.
Not that that is much consolation to Jones, who understands the situation as well as anybody after he had his team fifth-year option on his rookie contract declined heading into this year. “That’s kind of how it goes at outside linebacker”, he said, about the emphasis on sacks from the position.
“People don’t really notice you playing the run or doing other things”, he went on. “When you get sacks, it’s going to draw a lot of attention”. Not that he isn’t as eager as anybody to get the first sack under his belt. “For me, I’m kind of in the tank right now, I don’t have any sacks. I’m definitely working hard, extremely hard, to get better and have a better second half of the season”.
Jones can make all the improvement in the world in every other aspect of his game, and he understands that that will not be enough if he is not able to get the sacks that are required from the position. Required from the fans; required from the coaches; required from himself.