Much of the attention in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ OTA’s has been directed towards the young defense. I think that most people realize the Steelers’ offense will continue their climb from last season, but for the team to really be dangerous the young defense needs to improve.
Much of the talk has been about Shamarko Thomas and his relationship with Troy Polamalu, the growth of Stephon Tuitt into a starting defensive end, and how fast rookie Bud Dupree will be able to make a contribution.
All of those guys will be important to the success of the team in 2015, but no one player is more important to the defense than third year man, Jarvis Jones.
To this point in his career Jarvis Jones has been a victim of the way the NFL has changed for edge rushers. Ten years ago, Jarvis Jones would’ve been deemed too small to play DE and not athletic enough to play linebacker in a typical scheme so the Steelers would’ve grabbed him in the 3rd round.
Jarvis was a highly instinctual and productive player in college, but he just wasn’t ready physically for the NFL game. For that reason, Jarvis would’ve sat on the bench and bulked up and absorbed the playbook for 2 seasons before breaking onto the scene when it was his turn in line. Now, unfortunately the Steelers have to take a Jarvis Jones type player in round 1, where expectations are for him to immediately make an impact.
For that reason, plenty of people unfairly labeled Jarvis Jones a bust. Right now, he’s not.
That being said, this is Jarvis’ time. I’m not criticizing him for his first two seasons, but I am saying that we can now start to fairly judge Jarvis Jones’ production.
Prior to his injury last year, Jarvis Jones wasn’t dominating, but he was looking like you thought he should for a sophomore player at a position that takes time to learn; collecting 2 sacks in his first 3 games.
The early indication is that Jarvis looks thicker (in a good way) so far in team activities. That’s good news, and I don’t see any reason why Jarvis shouldn’t finally look like a first round pick. If he can notch something like 8 sacks this season, I think everyone would feel much better about his development.
While I hate to put so much emphasis on one player that’s not a Quarterback, if the Steelers are going to be successful in 2015 they need Jones to step up.
Bud Dupree may surprise, and contribute some as a rookie, but he’s not going to provide a consistent pass rush. Arthur Moats is a good run defender and a serviceable pass rusher but he’s never going to be a guy that offenses gameplan around. James Harrison is a valuable piece of the puzzle but we can’t expect him to play a large number of snaps.
This is Jarvis’ team in the pass rush department now. If he is healthy and doesn’t start producing this year, then I think that you start thinking about the bust label. If that happens, it’s going to set this team back quite a bit, as they wait on the development of Bud Dupree.
If Jones steps up in 2015, it would raise the level of the entire defense, which is what the Steelers need to get that 7th Lombardi.