After selecting Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, many pegged the pick as an instant upgrade at a position of need for the Steelers.
But while Jones certainly fits in the mold of what should be a great Steelers’ outside linebacker, the main question to ask is: will he be a starter as a rookie?
History is not on Jones’ side.
In the last eight years, only Heath Miller and Maurkice Pouncey have started their rookie season’s after being a first-round pick by the Steelers.
That’s not to say a rookie can’t perform at a high level though.
Even though he didn’t open the season as a starter, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was pressed into duty very early during his freshman campaign and performed very well.
Jones could have similar impact.
As a matter of fact, Jones shouldn’t be the only rookie in the starting lineup when the Steelers open the 2013 season, as second-round pick Le’Veon Bell should also be a starter.
But Jones’ situation is a little less clear because of Jason Worilds, a guy the Steelers like a lot.
However there were a few reasons that the Steelers finished 8-8 last season and one of them is the fact that they could not force turnovers and get to the quarterback.
The Steelers need a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball and they got one.
However don’t count Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin as one who is ready to anoint Jones as the Steelers future, as Tomlin said that Jones will have to compete for the job.
“I think it’s a daunting task for rookies to start in any system and play and perform well,” Tomlin said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Obviously it is difficult when you have established veteran players like we have with a lot of continuity. We are not going to close the door on him or anyone else on earning an opportunity, and that is what this is about. This is about people taking advantage of opportunities, so he’ll be given that.”
Worilds is entering the final year of his contract, and even though he got to the quarterback a few times last season, his career as a Steeler so far has to be viewed as a disappointment.
What happens if Jones clearly outplays Worilds in camp? Better yet, what happens if the competition is close?
Will Tomlin elect to go with the rookie even though it is something he hasn’t tended to do very much during his tenure as Steelers head coach?
We have a few months to go before we get that answer, but judging by where the Steelers are at right now, one thing should be very clear: this should be Jones’ job to lose.