NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala got a chance to catch up with Pittsburgh Steelers second-year outside linebacker Jarvis Jones following practice at OTAs yesterday, and the former first-round pick had plenty to say.
Kinkhabwala relayed that general manager Kevin Colbert was expecting the real jump this season to come from the 2013 draft class, and not the most recent class. This has always been the company policy, so the statement itself isn’t surprising.
But he was asked if it adds any extra pressure as he heads into his second season, and first as a sure starter, to which he responded in the negative. He explained:
“We’re a year older. We know what to expect. We know what this organization is about, and that’s about going out there and winning and bringing Super Bowls back. That’s the mentality that we have. That is the mentality we’re going to come to work with every day and walk around with”.
Part of that process is building chemistry as everybody learns the defense, and he talked about how committed everybody is to getting this defense to come together this year:
Every opportunity we get to make our team, and ourselves individually, better, we’re going to do it. This offseason has been great. Guys have been here, guys have been working. I mean you can see it out here. During OTAs and stuff like that, just camaraderie. The units that we have out there together, man, it’s unbelievable.
He feels as though he’s a bigger part of that now in his second season, having a better understanding of the defense and having to think less than he did on the field when he was a rookie. But that’s not the only benefit of being in his second year: he gets less of a hard time from the veterans.
“It’s a little bit lighter”, he said about the treatment he’s gotten this year. “I think the rookie class is getting that right now. But they still haven’t let us off the hook. They tell us we’ve got three more games before we aren’t rookies any more”.
But otherwise, he said, “it’s been great. We understand what’s going on, so we’re able to move around a whole lot faster, as far as the football and everything, watching film, in the weight room, all that stuff. It’s been great”.
One of those rookies this season is fellow first-round linebacker Ryan Shazier, and Jones was asked what advice he gave the rookie about handling his first season, saying that he told him to stay in Lawrence Timmons’ ear:
He’s just got to keep working. He’s a level-headed guy. He follows 94 around everywhere. I told him the first day “whatever you do, just make sure you don’t lose 94”, and since that day he’s been right behind him. He’s been great. He’s been out there making plays, understanding the defense, understanding the football on the mental side, weight room, locker room, everybody loves him. He’s a great guy, he loves football, and the sky’s the ceiling for him.
Shazier’s greatest asset is of course his speed, and installing him into the starting lineup on defense has certainly injected a much needed dose of quickness, in comparison what we saw from the Steelers last season. But it’s not just Shazier contributing to the increase in the overall team speed on defense, and Jones believes that that added speed is going to make a big difference this season:
It makes a whole lot [of difference]…after every ball you see six or seven, probably more, guys standing around the ball no matter where it’s at. If it’s a deep ball, we’re running. You see linemen down the field. Which is good—which means we can cover the field from side to side, deep to wherever they put it at, guys flying to the ball. Which is going to make us a whole lot better, and hopefully create more turnovers.