It’s not easy to be on a perennially-losing team for a driven athlete. And that would probably describe most players who rise to the highest level of their sport. While the money is nice, it’s hard to get there purely based on business sense. For most, you also have to possess the competitive spirit that wills you to pursue victory.
Myles Jack spent the first six years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had only one winning season during that time, losing at least 10 games in every other years, going as high as 15. Their overall record during his six seasons there was 28-69, a winning percentage of just .289. So hearing what Mike Tomlin had to say when the Pittsburgh Steelers pursued him following his release this offseason was music to his ears.
“He said, ‘We’re trying to win championships here’, and that’s a mentality that I haven’t really been around, so I’m very, very excited”, he told Mike Prisuta in an exclusive interview for the team’s website. “And he said, ‘First thing’s first, we need a defense to win championships’. So once he said that, I got goosebumps. I was ready to go and get on the plane right now. So I’m very excited. Very excited”.
The Steelers signed the former second-round draft pick to a two-year, $16 million contract, replacing Joe Schobert, who was Jack’s teammate in Jacksonville in 2020 in a corresponding move. Pittsburgh acquired Schobert via trade in August last year, but his play did not justify what his salary would be.
They’re hoping Jack gives them the level of play they were expecting to see last year out of the inside linebacker position. He is not a big splash-play guy—he has three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and four recoveries in his career, albeit with two total defensive touchdowns—but he is capable of delivering a solid baseline level of play with assignment-sound football.
And he wants to work with Devin Bush, who, uh, needs work. The former first-round pick is coming off of a really shaky season after returning from an ACL injury, which probably would have seen him play a lot less than he ended up doing if they could keep the position healthier.
Even average, assignment-sound play from a Jack-Bush duo would be a huge upgrade for this defense in comparison to what they got in 2021. It won’t be all on the inside linebackers, of course. They also need to get more out of the defensive line, and are hoping to get just that with the presumed returns of Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt.
The irony, though, is that the Jaguars have actually won a playoff game—in Pittsburgh—more recently than have the Steelers, whose last win came in 2016. Jacksonville beat them the following year, even though they’ve never won more than six games in a season since, or prior to, going back to 2011. Can he help them get back to winning ways?