Home Defense Steelers Still Have Issues At Right Outside Linebacker

Steelers Still Have Issues At Right Outside Linebacker

by Ben Anderson

Last Sunday saw a resurgent James Harrison have a very nice game. 7 tackles, 2 for loss, 3 sacks, 3 QB hits and a pass defensed on 37 defensive snaps. Jarvis Jones also had a “decent game”. He had a timely early interception that turned the tide of the game back in the Steelers favor. He also had 3 “almost sacks” where he missed getting the sack by less than a second.

I was a long time defender of Jones but I have run out of patience waiting for him to develop. My expectation now is that Jones ceiling is in the Clark Haggans/Carlos Emmons level of achievement and that he will never be a highly effective pass rusher. He’s just a guy. Not a bust, but not what you expect from a 1st rounder.

The Colts offensive line wasn’t good to begin with. When you subtract their best O linemen in Costanzo and Thornton, start a backup center in Holmes and move Reitz, a natural right tackle, over to start on the left for Costanzo,… Well, let’s just say you’re setting Matt Hasselbeck up for a long, hard day, And, that’s what he got; sacked twice, hit 8 times, forced into several errant throws, two of which were intercepted. Now we get to the part that no one wants to hear or, in this case, read.

Harrison, as much as we all love the guy is way, way past his prime. His stats on Sunday night are more a reflection of the state of the Colts’ offensive line than they are a reflection of his once great abilities. Craig Wolfley noted on Tuesday,
“He was back there holding AARP meetings with Frank Gore and Matt Hasselbeck.”
The Colts are not a good team. They’re not awful, but not good either. The Steelers dominance of them should be viewed in that context.

As for Jarvis Jones; the thing that separates the great pass rushers from the mediocre ones is the ability to bend that edge and get there a half second earlier, maybe even a full second versus a guy like Reitz. A 2008 vintage James Harrison would have broken the single game record for sacks against the Colts on Sunday. Jarvis just doesn’t have that kind of ability, not even close.

The Steelers are going to have to use another high draft choice on a right side Edge player, again next year.

They are also going to have a tough decision when it comes to whether or not to bring back a 38 year old outside linebacker, who has been a really valuable player and locker room presence, and is also at the end of his career; when they desperately need to develop young talent for the long term good of the team. There are only so many snaps to divvy out per game.

Every one that you give to a guy close to the end of the line stunts the development of a young player who could play a role in the future of the team by one snap. When you do that over the course of a season, guys like Anthony Chickillo, and whoever they draft next year, don’t develop quickly.

Photo Credit: AP Gene J. Puskar

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steelbydesign December 11, 2015 - 3:01 pm

I know there’s a lot of disappoint in Jarvis Jones, but I personally would like to see him get a new contract after this season (but not pick up his 1 year option). This team can win with Jarvis starting, but they need to be creative, and they have been. I agree about your Clark Haggans comparison, but they team was good w/ Haggans in there.

If Butler were to continue Lebeau’s scheme where your 2 OLB are you only real threats to produce sacks, then I’d say you need an upgrade over Jones. However, if Butler continues to rush the passer with Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and even safeties and cornerbacks then I think we could be ok.

I’m not opposed to another OLB pick, but I’d work on the secondary first, safety in particular.

You can’t have a star at every position, but Jarvis has shown improvement, even if it’s been slow and not as much as we all hoped it would be. All that being said though, if you do keep JJ as your starting OLB, it’s very important that Bud Dupree DOES reach his full potential.

Ben Anderson December 11, 2015 - 5:41 pm

The old scheme was based on creating mismatches inside with a nose tackle that resulted in blockers being devoted to block a dominant NT like Hampton and resulted in mismatches outside that created opportunities for guys on the Edge. This was made possible by a D line that could make team consistently pay for trying to block those three men one on one, especially Hampton who routinely was double and triple teamed.
With the change in scheme to a penetrating one gap style, teams can now devote more to stopping the guys on the Egde making them less effective due to fewer one on one opportunities.
I used to say that the most important position on the Steelers defense was the NT. While he never got stats or glory to speak of, his contributions were the fuel that made the engine run.
Given this change, I believe the OLBs are even more important than they used to be, are now the absolute lynch pin and their abilities will either drive the D toward success or make it ineffective.
In other words, I am not a proponent of Jarvis being a long term starter. He should be retained and will be in Pittsburgh in 2016. But, my hope is that he is nothing more than a placeholder and will eventually play the role of valued backup like Arthur Moats.

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