Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
There is a reason that no rookie defensive player has been a Week 1 starter for the Steelers since Kendrell Bell in 2001. The complex scheme is difficult for rookies to learn and it can be very overwhelming.
That was the case for Jarvis Jones last season. He started eight of the 14 games that he played in, yet he only managed one sack. That was a disappointment for a player who was supposed to help boost a weak pass rush.
Jones was unable to master the defense and was not strong enough to handle NFL tackles. Neither of those issues was a surprise, particularly the latter. It was known prior to the start of the year that Jones would need to add strength to develop into an effective pass-rusher.
After an entire offseason to increase his strength, he must develop his ability to get to the quarterback. He will not have to do it alone either. New defensive coach Joey Porter will certainly help Jones in that area.
General manager Kevin Colbert sees a similarity between Jones and Porter and believes that the two will work well together, via Scott Brown of ESPN.com:
“Joey can bring a certain element of pass-rush expertise,” Colbert said of Porter, who ranks fifth on the Steelers all-time sacks list with 60. “The exciting thing is he and Jarvis are very similar statures, so I think there will be some things he’ll be able to share with Jarvis that will help Jarvis be a better player.”
The Steelers can only hope that Jones can become as productive as Porter was. After just one year, there is already some doubt. Not only did Jones record only one sack, but he did not come close to making any splash plays. It wasn’t until the final week of the season that Jones looked to be an active presence on the defense.
Against the Cleveland Browns, Jones had nine tackles and one pass defensed. It was his most productive game of the year and provided a glimmer of hope for the 2014 season.
Porter believes that Jones can build upon his rookie season and develop into a quality player, via Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
“(Jones) is anxious to respond,” Porter said. “He wasn't happy how it turned out, but he feels like he did the best he can. Now it's try to help him do even more.”
“I don't have to say, ‘Man, you have to do this.' He's a good student and wants to learn the game,” Porter said. “Like I tell him all the time, ‘You put in the work, and I'm going to be here for you. I played the position, (so) soak up all the knowledge I have like a sponge, and I'll keep giving it to you.' ”
As long as Jones is willing to learn, there are few players with as much passion for defensive football as Porter. Not only will he learn to be a better pass-rusher, but a better all-around defender entering his second season.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and all roster information is courtesy of Steelers.com.