It’s not very common for defensive rookies to start for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, it doesn’t happen at all under Dick LeBeau as the defensive coordinator, although there’s a chance that Jarvis Jones is going to break that trend this season.
Jones showed up for the offseason workouts carrying a hamstring injury that happened to him on pro-day, which did make for some worrying signs early on, but he has been quite impressive so far for a team that hasn’t used a rookie starter since 2001 on defense.
Yes, the Steelers’ defense is quite a tricky one to learn for new players and especially NFL rookies, but Jones was exceptionally good in college for Georgia during his two seasons, recording 28 sacks. Unlike most pass-rush prospects the Steelers take, which are defensive ends who they slowly shift over to the 3-4 systems, turning them into outside linebackers, Jones has already played as one for the Bulldogs, making his transition a lot smoother.
According to LeBeau, who spoke to Len Pasquarelli of National Football Post, not having to shed some old habits off of Jones has really helped the Steelers speed up the process in getting him ready for life in the NFL.
Now that James Harrison is gone, it’s not quite clear who’ll take his place on the edge. Initially, it looked like Jason Worilds, who is a three year veteran with 10 sacks in 42 appearances will be the man to inherit the position, but with every day that goes by, the Steelers are more and more impressed with what they’re seeing from Jones.
Teams that take a linebacker with the 17th overall pick usually intend to start him right away. While the Steelers are known as a more patient organization, who needs to be completely trusting of a player in order to let him start playing for them, Jones seems to have gotten over that hurdle quicker than anyone else has in over 12 years.