Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
In past seasons, the notion of a rookie of the year coming from the Steelers was a little comical. Former head coach Bill Cowher was almost completely averse to the notion of playing a rookie except under the most extreme circumstances.
New head coach Mike Tomlin has softened some on this policy, but if you compare how the Steelers use their rookies to the rest of the league, you would find they are well below average.
But this year, that is all going to change.
The Steelers drafted linebacker Jarvis Jones in Round 1 of the draft and running back Le'Veon Bell in Round 2. Jones was drafted to eventually be the starting right outside linebacker opposite LaMarr Woodley. Jones was among the most productive players in all of college football last year, but he has significant critics due to a lack of ideal triangle numbers.
Bell was drafted to take what has been a lackluster run game and bring the physicality and explosion they were hoping to get from Rashard Mendenhall.
Jones lacks the ideal bulk that the Steelers coaches want from their outside linebackers. But his strength in college was getting pressure as a pass-rusher or in run support. Look for him to be on the field in passing situations as part of their sub packages. His instincts should allow him to put up nice sack and tackle-for-loss numbers even in a limited role.
Bell is in a battle for carries as part of a platoon of running backs. Incumbents Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are nice players, but they're unremarkable in every way. Bell, along with free-agent signing LaRod Stephens-Howling have the chance do a dynamic pairing.
But which player, Bell or Jones, is going to win the day?
I tend to lean towards Jones in this case. His opportunities will be plentiful, and his skills are special. His advantage is compounded with injury concerns surrounding Bell early on. Jones is getting significant reps with the starters, and you can see his potential starting to show.
Winner: Jarvis Jones