Many observers, both fans and outsiders of the Pittsburgh Steelers, have raised questions about the speed—or the seeming lack of speed—of the team’s 2013 first-round draft pick, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
After all, he turned in a 40-time at his Pro Day of nearly five seconds, which would be a suitable time for an offensive lineman, but not a linebacker.
Other workout numbers, such as his 7.46 3-cone drill time, also seem to indicate that Jones isn’t as athletic and quick a player as the Steelers would like. Whether or not the game tape from last season is proof of that remains to be seen.
As with many rookies, Jones reportedly found himself over his head for a good portion of the season, which no doubt contributed to some lagging play. With the Steelers in particular, it’s rare for defensive rookies to be asked to start due to the complexities involved in learning the defensive schemes and their role within it.
That is partly why Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler is encouraged about what the former first-rounder will be able to offer in his second year in the league.
During the draft, Butler got the opportunity to speak to the gathered media after the Steelers selected inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt in the sixth round. Because it was their first opportunity to speak to him since the end of the season, the reporters had Butler field questions on a variety of topics, including Jones.
Asked of his thoughts on the progression of Jones, Butler revisited the past season. “He pretty much didn’t know where to line up last year”, he revealed. Touching on the ever-present topic of speed, Butler added, “if somebody wasn’t there to help him and tell him what he was supposed to be doing he was a half a second slow.
“The great thing about playing in this defense is that it is tough to play in your first year, but the second year everything slows down. If it slows down for him mentally it will be a lot easier for him. Hopefully that will be the case”.
That may be great for Jones, though not so much for Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers’ top two draft choices, both of whom figure to have an opportunity to compete for a starting job on the defense.
More on the ‘great’ front for Jones, Butler revealed “he’s put in a lot of work” in the offseason, “trying to get stronger”. Getting stronger during the offseason was certainly a primary concern for many observers, and something Jones himself noted during the season.
Still, Butler was among those who believes that there was a “progression from the beginning of the season to the later part of the season”, during which Jones “improved quite a bit”. The season finale was probably his best game of the year. If he can play faster while knowing where he needs to be and not thinking as much, perhaps we’ll start to see this season the player the Steelers believed they drafted in the first place.