The Pittsburgh Steelers experienced a lot of turnover on their 53-man roster over the course of the past 12 months, yet one of those whose face is a new addition to the team has been generating excitement that is, perhaps, disproportionate to what will be asked of him.
The coaches chose to keep first-year Jamir Jones as their number four outside linebacker, but while they’ve only kept four at the position, that’s in part due to how strong they feel their top three is. With All-Pro T.J. Watt leading the way, you have second-year Alex Highsmith primed for a breakout season, and they added three-time Pro Bowl veteran Melvin Ingram shortly before training camp. It’s been a great source for Jones.
“The knowledge that all three of them—Alex, too—all three of them have, even Cassius [Marsh], I couldn’t even keep up”, he told reporters earlier this week about what it’s been like to work in that outside linebacker room. “They’re telling me three different things that I could’ve seen on just that one play and I’m just like, ‘how?’”.
Watt in particular is a meticulous notetaker, a habit he was forced to pick up from Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Highsmith came in as a rookie ready to go, even though he hadn’t been playing the position very long and came from a small cool, specifically because of his dedication to learning the game. Ingram, too, is well-versed in nuance, Cameron Heyward even talking about running stunts with him in the Pro Bowl one year, as a very minor example.
“I’m definitely gonna try to be a sponge in that room as much as I can, try to learn as much as I can from those guys”, Jones said of the opportunity he has in this room, “and hopefully get a chance, buy myself some more time making plays on special teams to develop and become a good outside linebacker”.
Jones logged more than 100 snaps on defense during the Steelers’ four preseason games, including 39 in the Hall of Fame Game and then 40 in the finale. But he also saw another 69 snaps on special teams, including an absolutely whopping 31 against the Carolina Panthers.
He led all players during the preseason in special teams tackles (although it helps when you play one more game than 30 other teams), and is primed to become a four-phase special teams player who has the potential to log 300-plus snaps in this area.
And he understands that that is step one. You get your foot in the door on special teams (which he loves to play anyway), and in the meantime, you learn and grow and wait for your opportunity to become a contributor on defense.