After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected linebacker Jordan Zumwalt in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, linebackers coach Keith Butler addressed the media about the pick.
Given the amount of change that has taken place among the linebackers over the past couple seasons, of course, there were plenty of questions for Butler to answer beyond simply discussing a late-rounder, or even Ryan Shazier, an inside linebacker drafted in the first round.
The Steelers also drafted a linebacker in the first round last season, and he got plenty of playing time as a rookie. The problem is that playing time produced some mixed results.
Most disappointing was his low production as a pass rusher, despite leading the college landscape in sacks for two years leading up to the 2013 draft.
In over 300 pass rushing snaps during his rookie season, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones managed to complete just a single sack, and that was against a small running back, protecting a rookie quarterback playing his first game back from injury.
It certainly wasn’t the most auspicious beginning to a pass rusher’s career that we’ve seen in recent years from the likes of Von Miller and Aldon Smith—but then again, Jones has also had a lot less issues with authority as well, so there are always tradeoffs.
Interestingly, the Steelers have brought in a new assistant coach who will largely serve as Jones’ pass rushing mentor, and it’s a man whose brash style has gotten him into trouble in the past as well, as least with the league.
That would of course be former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who joined the coaching staff this season as an assistant linebackers coach, adding to the cache of former Steelers players on the staff that already includes Carnell Lake and Jerry Olsavsky.
Lake in particular has done a good job of instilling the right mindset in his players and getting them to perform. In his first two seasons with the Steelers, the team finished first in passing defense. So how much can Porter help with the outside linebackers—Jones in particular?
“I think Joey will help him immensely”, Butler said back during the draft, “because he and Jarvis Jones are probably the same guy, their style of play. Jarvis is a little bit different than Joey but not much. Joey’s always had that kind of ‘barn boss’ attitude when he’s played, and we need some of that”.
So Butler thinks that Porter will be able to not only help Jones with his skill set, but also with his demeanor, which is something that could also be to the benefit of the low-key Jason Worilds, who begins the first season of his career as an unquestioned starter.
Butler also said of Porter that he thinks he has the right disposition and desire to be in the position that he is now, which is of a mentoring role, perhaps to players who were once like himself early on in his career. Just with less aggression. Butler values that on-field disposition and thinks Porter can bring that into the classroom as well.
“Joey, that’s the way he played. A lot of people say Joey was a loudmouth and all that stuff, and maybe he was, but he backed that mess up. I think he has a passion for coaching, he loves to be on the field working with those guys, and he has a real good knowledge base to do it”.
Porter may have been able to back up his boasts on the field, but that was because he was the one controlling whether or not his walk strode hand-in-hand with his talk.
The mark of success for a coach is when your players do what you say they will, and whether Porter is successful in his job will be determined by how Worilds, and especially Jones, perform this season.