If the Pittsburgh Steelers defense expects their secondary to improve in 2014, they will have to first get considerable improvement from their pass rush. That means second-year right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has to do a better job of getting after the quarterback than he did during his rookie season.
In order to get the most out of Jones and the other outside linebackers on the roster the Steelers hired former outside linebacker Joey Porter to the staff as a defensive assistant during the offseason. Porter, who registered 98 sacks during his long career, has a few basic beliefs that he thinks will help with the pass rush in 2014.
“Pass rushing is all in believing that you can beat the guy (across from you) and executing your craft,” Porter said, according to the Associated Press . “You have to work at it. You can’t just go out and not do any pass-rushing stuff during the week and expect to go out there and get a sack on Sunday.”
Jones and the other linebackers won’t be able work extensively on beating the man across from them until training camp starts, so in the meantime a lot of focus during the pad-less offseason practices has been placed on Porter going over with his group what he has observed while watching their tape from last season.
“I’ve been learning different techniques, hand placement, feet placement and just different things that you can do within the defense that allow you to make plays,” said Jones, who registered all of one sack as a rookie.
Porter said last week that he believes Jones is taking in all of the knowledge that he is trying to impart to him very well.
“I don’t have to say, ‘Man, you have to do this.’ He’s a good student and wants to learn the game,” Porter said. “Like I tell him all the time, ‘You put in the work, and I’m going to be here for you. I played the position, (so) soak up all the knowledge I have like a sponge, and I’ll keep giving it to you.’ ”
One thing that Jones lacks that Porter had during his career is emotion. Over the course of the last four weeks the Georgia product has seen first-hand that his new mentor coaches just like plays.
“I’m going to coach the way I played: with my emotions. I love to get after it,” Porter said. “They know me, so I don’t have to change.”
Last season Porter was a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater Colorado State and his impact was felt immediately. In fact, then-senior outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett posted 12.0 sacks in 2013 and set a Mountain West record with 20.5 tackles for loss en route to winning MW Defensive Player of the Year honors.
If Jones can register 12 or more sacks in 2014 it will go a long way in helping turn around the Steelers defense. In fact, it would be the most sacks registered by a Steelers defensive player since LaMarr Woodley notched 13.5 of them back in 2009. Jones, however, isn’t ready to make those kind of predictions just yet.
“Nah, man, we’re not going to make any assumptions,” he said. “We’re going to play and continue to work and continue to take it one day at a time. That’s what I’m going to focus on during the rest of this offseason and just try to get better every day to get ready for training camp.”