Fourth-year Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones doesn’t have a lot of supporters in his corner defending him these days—nor has he since he first took the field for the team—but such is life for a first-round draft pick who does not live up to his pedigree, and I’m certain not even his most ardent supporters would deny that that is the fact of the matter.
That does not mean, however, that he has been negatively contributing to the defense. In fact, his overall game outside of what everybody wants out of him—the pass rush—has really developed in a positive way, particularly over the course of the past two seasons especially, and he has become a solid all-around player within the framework of what they ask him to do.
Jones doesn’t rush the passer as much as the average 3-4 outside linebacker, because it’s not what he does best, but he does just about everything else with reasonable efficiency, which is why he has 18 tackles, two passes defensed, and an interception through five games in 210 snaps played.
One of the things that I’ve noticed a lot this season is that he’s grown in terms of discipline as a backside defender, and that has allowed him to chase down a number of plays. He made a tackle for no gain on a second-and-one play at the end of the first quarter against the Jets because he read the play well from the back side.
Jones got close to making a big play early in the second quarter when he was left untouched on a screen pass on second and long. He rushed in, but read the quarterback, and almost got himself a pass deflection in his face, but the pass was completed for nine yards.
That set up a third and eight on the next play, on which Jones put pressure on the quarterback to throw short of the sticks, helping to prevent a first down.
Later in the game, about five minutes into the third quarter, the Jets were in another second-and-one situation, and were looking to get out a quick hitter, but Jones was prepared for it as he came in on the pass rush, reading the quarterback and reaching back with his armed outstretched, batting the ball up in the air.
On the next play, setting up a third and one, Jones stayed disciplined on a misdirection attempt, bailing on the pass rush when he sensed that a shovel pass to the back was coming, and he made the tackle for no gain to force a punt.
His best opportunity on the pass rush came late in the game, on the Jets’ final drive, when the game was admittedly already in hand. Jones was able to beat the left tackle to the inside and got a good hit on the quarterback as he threw for an incompletion.
The former first-round draft pick may not have ever developed into what the Steelers drafted him to be, but when taken in a vacuum, he has built himself up into being a solid contributor for this defense when you let go of the sack count as the sole barometer for what a 3-4 outside linebacker is.