With three players who had to be inactive due to injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers only had four slots available to them on the inactive list to rest some of their key players in the meaningless regular-season finale. So James Harrison dressed for the game against the Browns. But he did not play.
The 38-year-old was a spectator for the finale after he spent the past several weeks missing just one snap, and the primary right outside linebacker replacing him yesterday was none other than the man he leapfrogged and then sent to the bench, Jarvis Jones, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick in 2013, who may have just played his last snaps in a Steelers uniform.
After plenty of back and forth over the course of the season, Jones last week found himself for the first time in his career on the inactive list as a healthy scratch, a week after he didn’t even see the field on special teams. But with Harrison not playing, the coaching staff gave him the opportunity to log time, playing the majority of the game, and he actually wound up having a pretty impactful game—relative to the competition.
In case you were wondering, yes, Jones was working against Joe Thomas on the sack, which came late in the fourth quarter. The outside linebacker ran a deep arc against the All-Pro before working inside as Robert Griffin III started to feel pressure and begin to flush out of the pocket. Jones was able to come off the block and wrestle the quarterback down for just his first sack of the season for a loss of four yards.
Jones doesn’t exactly have the most impressive body of work over the course of his four-year career as a pass rusher. He has played in 50 games, and yesterday’s was just the sixth sack of his career, but it may have been his best, short of the sack on Cam Newton in the third game of the 2014 season.
Aside from the sack—which proved to be spoiled, as the Browns rattled off a long run on the next play and then scored the game-tying touchdown soon after—Jones also recorded three solo tackles, batted a pass down at the line, and forced a fumble in the red zone that the Steelers recovered. It was the most impactful game that he has had in his career.
That forced fumble game on the Browns’ next drive, which started at midfield. After a 43-yard play put the Browns on the five with first and goal, Isaiah Crowell tried to run up the middle when Jones knocked the ball loose with about a minute left to play. So you can blame Jones for the overtime, but also thank him for the chance to win.
Not that that likely changes his status for next year. The Steelers declined his fifth-year option and benched him for a reason. Come next week, he may be back in street clothes on the sideline, and could find himself in a jersey of another color come March.