Jarvis Jones to Steelers: How Does Linebacker Fit with Pittsburgh?

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Jarvis Jones to Steelers: How Does Linebacker Fit with Pittsburgh?
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With the 17th pick in the NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select a guy who just two months ago was considered the best prospect in the entire draft, and they fill a need at the same time. 

Jarvis Jones fell mostly due to injury and poor workouts, but there's no questioning that he's the most polished pass-rusher in the field.  

 

Role:

Jones obviously comes in and fills an immediate need with the departure of to the Cincinnati Bengals. But Jones could have helped this team even if Harrison had stuck around. 

Once the most dominant pass-rushing team in the league, Pittsburgh's defense fell all the way to 17th and 15th in sacks over the past two years. Both Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have been slowed by injuries, and it's shown on the field. 

As of now, Jones should go into camp competing for the starting role left by Harrison. He'll have to beat out incumbent Jason Worilds, a former second-round pick who has just 10 sacks in 40 career games, five of which came in 2012. 

 

Scheme Fit:

Pittsburgh probably couldn't have found a guy in the first round of this draft that was a better fit schematically for Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense.

LeBeau's original 3-4 scheme was built around getting to the quarterback with heat from the edge. They employed guys like Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene for the original package and worked their way up to Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

But that pass rush has fallen off in recent years, and Jones is the guy to help bring it back.

Jones ran a similar 3-4 defense under coordinator Todd Grantham at the University of Georgia. That was a defense that led to Jones becoming a two-time first-team All-American for the Bulldogs and one of the most feared pass-rushers in the country.

The transition period for Jones shouldn't be too long given his familiarity with the scheme, and that could be great news for Pittsburgh.

 

Early Projections:

In all reality, it's pretty hard to predict how any Steelers rookie will ever perform. Typically, they don't come in as starters but end up working their way into some sort of role and contributing early. 

That should be the case with Jones, who will have to compete with three-year veteran Worilds.

The best comparison we can make for the amount of time Jones will see for Pittsburgh in 2013 is going back to 2007 and looking at what Woodley did.

Woodley, a second-round pick, was in a very similar situation with Porter leaving and incumbent Clark Haggans penciled in for the starting role. Although Haggins did end up starting all 16 games for the Steelers, Woodley's role increased as the season carried on, especially in pass-rushing situations. 

That's the type of season Jones could very well have in 2013. 

Jones is most likely a better player than Worilds and is probably more adept at getting to the quarterback, but the Steelers have always had a tendency to hold off on starting rookies unless they're the only thing they've got. Mike Tomlin also tends to lean toward veteran guys when filling out his depth chart.

 

Grade:

I gave the Steelers an A for their pick of Jones in my Grades/Analysis piece, and I'm sticking to that.

The Steelers certainly have some holes to fill on offense, such as receiver, running back and (possibly) tight end, but they couldn't pass on a talent like Jones, especially given his fit with this defense. 

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As the board shaped up, it began to look more and more unlikely that Jones would fall to the Steelers. But a small run on defensive tackles and cornerbacks pushed the Georgia linebacker into Pittsburgh's laps. Realistically, the only other option the Steelers had was tight end Tyler Eifert.

Maybe best of all is the fact that Jones' intangibles are off the charts. This is a guy who was the captain of a vaunted defense for the Bulldogs and, as Mel Kiper put it during ESPN's draft coverage, "On a scale of 1 to 10, his character is a 15." 

Pittsburgh, without question, made the best pick they could have in the first round this year. The only reason it's not an A+ would be because of the injury concern, given his condition of spinal stenosis. 

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