Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers brass had to be celebrating when their pick came up at No. 17 and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones was still on the board.
Jones was the logical pick for the Steelers and likely the guy they targeted all along.
But now the celebration of drafting Jones is over and it’s time to take a look at exactly he will impact the Steelers roster, not only this season, but for years to come.
What they getting in Jones is a versatile player who’s seen almost every type of offense imaginable. He started his college career in the high-flying Pac-12 at USC before transferring to Georgia and the SEC.
After redshirting in 2010, Jones finally got on the field for Georgia in 2011 and started in every game he played in after that. The 6’3″ linebacker was named an All-American in 2011 and 2012, along with being named a Butkus Award finalist in both years.
The impressive part of his resume is that Jones came up big in big games. The two biggest games of his career both came against Florida. In 2011, Jones tallied a career-high four sacks in a 24-20 Bulldog win over the Gators. Jones followed up his 2011 performance last season with a career-high 13 tackles and three sacks in Georgia’s 17-9 October win over then-No. 3 Florida.
Oh, but he just didn’t perform well in big games, Jones ate up every team he saw.
In 2011 he quickly established himself as one of the nation’s best collegiate pass rushers amassing 70 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. In 2012 he was even better, recording 85 tackles, 24.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks, one INT and seven forced fumbles despite missing two games with minor injuries.
He not only put up those numbers but did so against the best competition in college football.
When analyzing Jones before the draft, I called him an “elite playmaker off the edge” who is “athletic enough to drop back into coverage.” I still feel that’s the best description and its fortunate for the Steelers because they need elite playmakers on the defensive side of the ball right now.
But how does Jones fit in Pittsburgh?
Basically Jones is a perfect fit for the Steelers’ defensive 3-4 scheme and philosophy. Sure he has some risks associated with him. One would be his lack of explosive athleticism as he didn’t perform well when working out for NFL teams. Another is his medical history, as even though he was medically cleared, being diagnosed with spinal stenosis has to be a concern.
But despite the concerns, he has the film to impress and I feel that’s more important. Jones was a highly-productive collegiate player who can step in immediately as a starting outside linebacker, and help add a much-needed spark to the team’s pass rush.
Jones will have to compete with Jason Worilds to replace James Harrison in the starting lineup, but Worilds hasn’t shown enough to give you the confidence that he can be productive for 16 games, so I would expect Jones to be given every opportunity to win the job.
His skill set compares favorably to Harrison—while he does not have ideal size or speed for the position, he is an instinctive pass-rusher who uses his hands well around the edge, has a high motor, and has a knack for hitting hard and forcing fumbles.
The Steelers have had good success with shorter outside linebackers before in Harrison and LaMarr Woodley coming off the edge, but Jones may be more talented than either of them. He can be a three-down player for the Steelers, and while getting to the quarterback is what he is known for, Jones is also very good at making stops in the backfield on run defense.
Given his lack of explosive athleticism, Jones is unlikely to match his insane production as a pass-rusher that he had at Georgia (44 tackles for loss, 28 sacks in past two seasons). That being said, he should have a long NFL career and complement Woodley very nicely if he can stay healthy, which has been a concern for him.
Last year, the Steelers were tied for 15th in the league with only 37 sacks, so Jones should help in that department.
They needed to add a spark to their pass rush this offseason, especially after releasing Harrison. If I had to put a number on it, Jones should be good for somewhere between six and 10 sacks as a rookie.
Finally there is the character factor and Jones is thought of as a guy with high-character.
ESPN’s Jon Gruden commented during the draft that if you were ranking character on a 1-10 scale that Jones would be a 15. That’s good news for the Steelers as he should fit in the locker room very nicely.
Jones is great value in the second half of Round 1, and could be viewed the steal of the first round. It was a perfect match between him and the Steelers.
I mentioned yesterday that Colbert needed to hit with all eight of the Steelers draft picks.
He’s off to a good start as he hit a home run in Round 1.