LaMarr Woodley’s Release Is A Necessary Evil For Jarvis Jones’ Development

The decision to move on from LaMarr Woodley was undeniably a difficult one, but it was more difficult sentimentally than it was pragmatically. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be better served in the long run saying goodbye now rather than waiting.

Financial concerns naturally play a large part in that. The Steelers must eat approximately $14 million in dead money left from prorations of salary portions turned into bonuses during multiple restructures.

That much was a given. But getting his base salaries off the books—even though he will still have a cap value next season—was important financially in an effort to move on to the next line of contracts.

It’s also worth mentioning that while the post-June 1 designation of Woodley’s release splits his cap hit over two seasons, whatever salary cap space remains unused from 2013 can be carried over to 2014 anyway.

Perhaps more importantly, it puts Jarvis Jones back in the spotlight, under pressure. And that is exactly where he needs to be.

As the rare 24-year-old rookie, Jones is already behind the curve because he got his start in the league at a later point in his life. He needs to be developed at an accelerated schedule in order for the Steelers to get proper value out of his services.

For those worried about Jones being ‘handed’ a starting job that he never earned, remember that he was already handed a starting job once by the coaching staff. Jason Worilds never earned his starting spot to start the 2013 season either.

I thought we were all against the coaching staff favoring the veteran players by fiat anyway.

Also know that Jones made significant and steady progress throughout his rookie season, culminating in his best game of the year in the season finale, as he showed glimpses of what the coaching staff had seen during practices to make them want to start him in the beginning of the season in the first place.

So instead, he will start the opening game of his second year, as it should be. Keeping him as a reserve rotating with Woodley and Worilds would not be a healthy dynamic for any of the three players, and never worked smoothly when they experimented with it last season either, for that matter.

Consider this: by the time Jones actually reaches free agency at the conclusion of his rookie contract, presumably in March 2018, he will in the season during which he turns 29 years old. By way of comparison, Worilds just turned 26 a week ago. He is not even two years older than Jones.

That’s what makes it so much more important to assure that Jones doesn’t have to go through what Worilds did by spending his first three seasons as an apprentice. He required the playing time to develop into the player that he is now, and so does Jones.

The Steelers are confident and comfortable in the long-term future of the pairing of Worilds and Jones. If they weren’t, they would have found a way to keep Woodley, bloated contract, injury history and all.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • dkoy85

    Great way of looking at it and I’m sure the way the FO looks at it. I’m very excited to see Jones and Williams development and the combo of Worilds and Jones on the outside. Talk about a young linebacker group. No more excuses about old and slow.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Jones is a player. Had some setbacks playing with the big boys and now it’s time to hone his craft. I’d expect huge improvement.

    More importantly, are the backup LBs currently on the roster or will that be completely overhauled?

  • steeltown

    He did have a solid 2nd half last season.. and more specifically the last game of the season he was a beast, which is encouraging and gives him something to build off of

  • steeltown

    C.Carter and Jamaal Westerman…. yea I see an OLB being drafted in the mid Rds (maybe Shaq Barrett) and of course some undrafted rookies will be brought in, one would think Carter will make the Team (unless injured) purely based on the fact that he has 3yrs in the system, but I think it’s his last yr

  • Jason

    Jones obviously needs to get stronger but not at the expense of quickness. I think it’s more about focusing on technique and adding more pass rushing moves to his arsenal. I think at Georgia he was able to beat most tackles around the edge and became comfortable with that but he learned at this level you need to be more than a one trick pony. Hopefully Joey Porter can be a big help in this regard as I still have high hopes for this kid.

  • Nolrog

    Jones needs to respond to Woodley’s release by coming into camp later this year bigger, stronger and faster.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Jones said it already and it was obvious last year. He needs to hit the weights and get stronger. That’s my only concern for him. He is athletic and quick enough to get around but he couldn’t bull rush anyone in this league. You have to be able to do that some times and he couldn’t.

    Lastly, I thought he ran out of gas a few times but that’s okay for a first year guy. Not a second year guy. I like Jones. Says all the right things. Now with Porter, I’m a bit excited to see what these two can do. We need to get back to crushing QBs and making them look and play scared.

    Its been awhile since I’ve seen that around here, which was common in the past. Very interested to see who we have starting to replace Foote. Williams look to slow in coverage and not quick for the blitz. Dying to see Spence and what’s all the hype. Sure hope he 100%. We need him.

  • pat

    Either one of these guys get hurt we are fucked.

  • srdan

    This makes sense to me. Someone a few weeks back posted that htey would rather keep woodley and let the best 2 start out of the three. But wtih an older rookie, you don’t necessarily have that luxury.

    I like how the steelers FO works with the coaching staff. Bring in coaches to help specific players. At least that is how I interpret the Porter and Munchak signings. I’m sure it’s more than that, but it’s a good way to target improvement. Kind of like the Jets hired a coach to teach Sanchez how to slide LOLOL

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Barrett looks like the guy. He is a middle rounder and has a lot of potential. I also see a vet being brought into the mix as well. We will need exp. in case of injury.

  • James Kling

    If Jones doesn’t come in in better shape, stronger, faster, more productive, we’re screwed.

  • Chad H

    Maybe Garvin will move outside. Maybe Westerman will develop. Maybe we get a late round OLB that shows promise. A lot of maybes this year non of which take Carter into consideration. We have to find some depth that can contribute immediately.

  • srdan

    I get what you are saying, but it’s a bit overstated. Jones was not the reason that we failed as a defense last year. But he didn’t help the defense succeed either. I don’t think he was out of shape, weak or slow, I think he lacked technique and understanding of the defense. Both things will improve with an offseason, and there is a huge difference in every player from year-one to year-two in strength due to entering the pros schedule for lifting.

  • srdan

    Yes, I wouldn’t mind seeing Jarvis fight Josh Gordon before a game next year! I’m sort of joking, but not really. I really hope he gets an edge, ala williams.

  • srdan

    What are we if Ben gets hurt? How about Brown? Bell? Do you see my point? You can’t build a roster assuming guys get hurt. Some positions are more expsoed than others since you are only allowd so many players and $. But I do expect a FA or high draft pick because the OLB situation is probably the most desparate on the team. Followed by DL and secondary.

  • westcoasteeler

    With this years draft depth, someone will fall to us in the fourth. Woulda said third round, but I want desir in the third. Man, with the exception of the #1 or #2 pick, we HAVE to lean heavily towards defense this year.

  • pat

    Yea I realized that after I wrote that but with no quality backup at this position makes it a little worse for depth purposes I have a gut feeling we could see James Harrison brought back on a 1yr vet min not to start unless called upon

  • Axe Skot

    Good article. I had forgotten, or maybe I never really knew, Jones’ age. If these two can play to their potential we should have a solid pass rush. Now to the secondary.

  • Chad H

    Really looking forward to the draft this year. IMO we will need 3 to 4 of the draftees to make some sort of immediate impact. Not saying we need them to be starters but guys who can come in and make impact plays. I don’t see us as SB contenders for 2014 but with enough pieces from last and this year I believe we will be contenders in 2015.

  • dgh57

    I agree that the Porter hire was to hopefully accelerate J. Jones development because we need results NOW rather than later!

  • James Kling

    To clarify, I’m not trying to pin the defensive woes of 2013 on Jones. But he did appear to me to be out of shape at times, and often looked overmatched at the POA. His workout numbers were unimpressive, so he appears to have gotten his rep on collegiate production – OK, fine. But that does not always translate, which is why workouts do matter. That said, I agree 100% that the difference with a year of strength and conditioning can make all the difference in the world, and obviously I’m hoping Jones comes ready to play.

  • James Kling

    IMO, your toughest spot to back up is a franchise QB. But the other positions should have some kind of depth – look at teams that suffer injuries but still make deep runs in the postseason. NE was wracked with major injuries and still made it deep.

  • joed32

    That fight allowed the Steelers what to “discover what they had with Harrison and they began phasing out Porter.

  • joed32

    He’s still under contract with the Bengals for one more year.

  • MP34

    I’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV… but I’ve wondered if the spinal column narrowing that Jarvis Jones apparently has, limits the amount of bulking up or lifting he is able to do? Or if he has to handle it another way. Just wondering if anyone has heard anything like that. Maybe it’s not even and issue?

  • srdan

    Well, Jarvis wouldn’t have to worry, not much behind him lol

  • Nolrog

    That’s why we need to pick up a guy or two via free agency or the middle of the draft for depth.

  • Virdin Barzey

    I hear you on getting something out of Carter but I’m not that hopeful from what I’ve seen. Porter will have to be a miracle worker to get this guy up to snuff. I hope you’re right. He wasn’t even great on Special Teams.

    My real hope is in the draft.

  • charles

    Scare the qb is right.
    no doubt that Porter has his fingerprints on the Woodley situation. That in itself gives hope.
    we need a dlineman that has to be doubled…that will make all the lbs more effective as well as the secondary, remember with no qb pressure the secondary had an impossible job..

  • joed32

    You’re right about that!

  • Steve

    Jones had a big problem last year with them beating him around the edge, which should be his main responsibility at OLB.

  • Steve

    James was done last year. Expected to see him bring it vrs Ben and seen next to nothing. Why bring him when a FA or Rookie can give you the same and build on it?

  • Steve

    It is called hitting the wall for Rookies and is to be expected.

  • pat

    1 it was a bad fit 2 he played all of like 10 snaps against us because of the offense we ran to keep him off the field

  • James Kling

    Most rookies hit the wall midway through the season, not from the beginning.

  • Steve

    Still think Jarvis will turn it around. We have not seen his best yet.