Steelers Film Room: Jarvis Jones – Technique Versus Talent


By Alex Kozora

A few weeks ago, we took a purely statistical approach to evaluating Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones as he enters his second season. Obviously, numbers alone don’t tell the story. Tape is more important than historical data as data doesn’t hold a tangible effect on him. That’s what we’ll accomplish today. If you’ve followed me on Twitter, it’s a similar, but expanded upon, discussion from the last few days.

We’ll attack it from two aspects: Jones’ technique and naturally ability.

The best way to look at Jones is to compare him to recent dominant edge rushers the Steelers have created. No one has been better than James Harrison, making him an excellent poster child.

In this video, Harrison describes the technique on a speed bull rush. Start off the edge, plant, and drive into the tackle. It’s barely a minute long and definitely worth the watch.

One of the biggest things to take away here, technique-wise, is this quote: “You take three or five steps, depending on your stride length. On that third or fifth step, plant on that outside foot…”

And of course, that’s demonstrated in the video. Harrison takes five steps – since he’s shorter and takes smaller strides – drives off his right foot to redirect him into the tackle’s pads, and explodes through to the inside leg upon contact, generating enough explosion to walk the tackle into the pocket. Simply, converting speed to power. Also worth noting is Harrison’s ankle flexibility which we’ll delve deeper into later on.

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This translates in-game, as seen in this 2012 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

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Let’s bring it back to Jarvis Jones. His speed bull rush from last year. Also against the Ravens though choosing them again was purely coincidental.

Instead of planting off his outside foot, Jones drives off his inside. He lands on his right by the time he makes contact with the tackle.

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It’s the opposite of what Harrison teaches. Driving off the outside foot – as Harrison states – is where the power comes from. I’m not an expert in this field, but it makes sense that when you step off the inside, it’s difficult to get the outside of your body moving with the inside. Momentum wants to carry it upfield. Stepping with the outside foot, all that momentum goes the same direction, generating more power.

The focus here isn’t on building the upper body strength, and to a degree, not even the lower body. It’s technique, it’s steps. Maximizing the power you do have. Jones is inefficient.

But that is the smaller issue of the two. Technique can be cleaned up, especially for a then-rookie whose head has hopefully stopped spinning.

The larger problem, the one that is much more difficult to correct, is natural talent. Good pass rushers have to have a variety of qualities: an explosive first step, strong, active hands, and a repertoire of moves.

But above all, they have to be able to bend. Dip the tackle, get skinny around the edge, and work to the pocket. If you don’t own that, life is tough.

Harrison again excelled in that category. Being six feet definitely helps when facing tackles that are a half foot taller, but he could bend with the best of them.

Admittedly, “bend” is a bit of a broad term. What exactly are we looking for? We want flexibility in three areas: the hips, knees, and ankles. Listen to Mike Mayock or Greg Cosell before the draft; you’ll hear the term a ton.

Deebo served as an example for all three.

Screengrab of Harrison’s forced fumble/safety against the San Diego Chargers in 2008. Look at the ankle flexibility as he dips past left tackle Marcus McNeil. Flexed at nearly a 45 degree angle, allowing the knee to bend and Harrison to turn the corner, getting upfield and to the quarterback.

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This one is slightly more difficult to see with Harrison at the bottom of the screen but you get a good idea of how flexible his hips were. Look at the bend, which I’ve outlined with the most exquisite tools Microsoft Paints offers me (a curved line).

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Look at what Harrison causes the tackle to do. He’s forced to bend at the waist, double-over, and lose his own base. Power is generated from a lineman’s lower half. Without that, all he can do is try and shove the linebacker up the arc and hope for the best. It didn’t work very often against the stout, and frankly, dense, James Harrison.

Now let’s compare that to what we saw from Jones, picking out a couple plays from Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills and Week 17 versus the Cleveland Browns.

We’ll begin with one of the late first half plays I’ve highlighted in the past where Cordy Glenn easily pushes Jones up the arc. Look at Jones’ hips in the picture below. He’s upright with inside shoulder exposed. Easy play for the left tackle, who punches the inside shoulder and pushes him upfield.

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Fast forward to this 2nd and 9 in the third quarter. Jones again trying to dip around the edge. Look at his left knee and ankle.

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Neither shows flexibility. His lower half never gives him the opportunity to make the turn and get upfield, working to the quarterback. His knee and ankle are locked and it causes him to float upfield.

Flip to Week 17 and we again see Jones struggling. Off the line, he is again upright, the inside shoulder way too high. Hips stiff and locked.

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Left knee and ankle is again locked. Nowhere close to the flexibility Harrison showcased.

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And the last snapshot from the play.

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Nothing about his body positioning suggests the ability to turn the corner and work towards the pocket. Left leg locked out, hips stiff. Naturally, he’s a non-factor in the play.

It’s difficult for me to articulate, but I habitually see his outside leg fly out in front of him, possibly getting him overextended. See it in the Bills’ and Browns’ screenshots. That’s likely compounding the problem, making it tougher to turn.

Sure, he’s facing Joe Thomas, but that has nothing to do with Jones’ errors. What Jones is showing isn’t good enough to beat a backup, let alone an All-Pro like Thomas.

One last play and the one that stuck the most out to me. Referring back to the Bills game. Another one of the last first half plays.

Jones and LaMarr Woodley both show the same rush, trying to dip off the edge. Initial steps are identical.

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It’s the next step that is radically different. Woodley is getting much better knee and ankle bend than Jones. He’s much closer to the ground. Jones, by comparison, is stiff and more upright.

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To throw in one final aspect, and one that can be coached up, are counter moves. Both linebackers’ fail to get around the edge. Realizing that, Woodley counters with an inside spin. Jones doesn’t and Glenn calmly pushes him up the arc.

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I’ve been asked how much of Jones’ issues can be fixed. Coaching can help but only so much. Similar to an attribute like arm strength, a players’ bend is something that comes naturally more than something that can be taught.

The offseason is over so it’s obviously too late to train, but if I were to give any advice to Jones – as the run of the mill blogger, I realize I’m not the one to come to for solutions – but I’d pick up yoga or heck, pull a Lynn Swann and try my hand at ballet. Something that improves flexibility.

I’m rooting for Jones to succeed as much as anyone. His success is integral to the defense, and it’s near the top of my list of things to watch for during camp and the preseason. But from what the numbers and tape tell me, I’m extremely skeptical.

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  • steeltown

    Nice breakdown.

    He has a good first step, good short are quickness and active hands for sure. But, yes he sure needs to work on the technique, footwork and counter moves look like the main culprit. Hopefully Porter can help in this area.

  • dennisdoubleday

    If you watch his highlights from 2012 at Georgia, you see that most of his quick sacks come from inside stunts. He does get a few on outside rushes; those fall into 2 categories:

    1) tackle doesn’t move feet fast enough to keep up with his speed around the edge, or falls down — that won’t happen in the NFL much
    2) he swings all the way up the arc, but the QB holds the ball long enough that he has time to come on him from behind — that also won’t happen much

    Taking the optimistic view, he was probably doing what had always worked for him on the outside speed rush. Now that he know it won’t, he’ll work on his technique and come up with a spin and swim moves. He did show some bull rush power at times last year.

    I would think the Steelers will also work this year to try to free him up on inside stunts more, because he seems really good at that on his college film.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Some of my comments get swallowed up sometimes, with “Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by Steelers Depot.” And then they never show up. There is nothing objectionable in my language, so I can’t figure out why

  • Dom

    If you even slightly stray into dodgy territory it gets held up. For example saying H3ll Yea gets me held up ocassionaly

  • letownia

    I’ve faced this a few times when I posted a hyper-link? Did you post a link to another website maybe?

  • dennisdoubleday

    Nope. And no even slightly dodgy language, unless “bull rush” triggers a review.

  • dennisdoubleday

    OK, here’s the first half of my blocked comment:

    If you watch his highlights from 2012 at Georgia, you see that most of his quick sacks come from inside stunts. He does get a few on outside rushes; those fall into 2 categories:

    1) tackle doesn’t move feet fast enough to keep up with his speed around the edge, or falls down — that won’t happen in the NFL much

    2) he swings all the way up the arc, but the QB holds the ball long enough that he has time to sack him from behind — that also won’t happen much

  • JohnB

    hey, even Deebo wasn’t Deebo right away.

  • dennisdoubleday

    The rest of the comment:

    Taking the optimistic view, he was probably doing what had always worked for him on the outside speed rush. Now that he knows it won’t, he will work on his technique and come up with a spin and swim moves. He did show some bull rush power at times last year.

    I would think the Steelers will also work this year to try to free him up on inside stunts more, because he seems really good at that on his college film.

  • dennisdoubleday

    I figured out why I was getting blocked: I used the contraction for “he will”, which the filter interprets as a reference to perdition.

  • James Kling

    Excellent breakdown. The only factual error is Harrison being 6′. Maybe with really thick soles…

  • srdan

    Maybe the best researched article I have read on here. Good stuff man! This type of article takes time to put together! Thank you

  • srdan

    Only when youre talking about jarvis lol

  • Steel PAul

    Great article Alex. I feel like the bend you’re talking about with Harrison was developed over a few years. I recall watching him the year before he got a start and noticed he was starting to get really low around the tackle.

    I can’t remember how much different or anything like that, but he got better. Much better. I hope Jarvis can too.

  • Asmitty56

    Alright, next season McLendon needs to drag Jones to ballet.

  • steeltown

    I concur

  • joed32

    Not by a long shot, he got cut more than once.

  • kev4heels

    Jones ankle flexibility and abilty to dip his shoulder are the most worrisome. Not srue how much of that can be fixed.

  • steeltown

    Crazy to think that the Ravens actually allocated him to the ‘Rhein Fire’ of NFL Europe

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/JohnnyLoose Johnny Loose

    Adding some counter moves would definitely help him. I hate to be skeptical, but I need to see if from him to believe it at this point. That’s not to say he won’t show vast improvement from last year. Again, need to see it though

  • charles

    Technique employed begins w decision to either bull rush or edge rush and is different for each type. It would be a surprise to me if Jones ever decided what he was going to do before the snap last year. That is where Porter will be hands on….

  • ApexSteel

    Get a stretch band and do ankle stretches among other workouts. If he’s really gotten stronger during the off season then I guarantee he’s stretched his ankles.

  • dgh57

    Well, there was a reason why Joey Porter was brought in. If Harrison is resigned it would be an effort to really get it to sink in!

  • http://jasonbrant.blogspot.com Jason Brant

    I was going to say the same thing. Comparing a prime Deebo to a first-year Jones isn’t all that telling. I’d be willing to bet that Deebo looked rough if you went back and watched tape from his first year too.

  • letownia

    lol are you for serious? That’s a horrible filter…

    edit: just tried it and I got the “Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by Steelers Depot” message. Ridiculous.

  • JohnB

    yeah and I always forget he was on the XL team.

  • JohnB

    yeah it took a few years (and a few cuts) to become the Deebo we all know and love.

  • http://www.amazon.com/The-Sibyl-Reborn-ebook/dp/B009KNQHSM James P. Kelly

    Great piece, Alex! As a young man, I practiced yoga, modern ballet, and Tai Kwon Do. Of the three, I’d strongly suggest that Jones consider karate or kung fu. Both emphasize flexibility but also improve basics of creating violent power quickly from solid foundations.

  • mem359

    Now I’m curious if the film room would show noticeable differences in what Worilds did in his rookie season (or the 2nd and 3rd years), and what he did last year when he was playing better. Might be interesting if he had any of the flaws that Jones has now, and if they were fixed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/STEELMANIAC STEEL MANIAC

    Bottom line. James is James. Jarvis is Jarvis.

  • steeltown

    He (Worilds) definitely began using his counter/spin move with greater efficiency and success in ’13, that’s one thing noticeable

  • Trey Brooks

    Good break down of Jones.

  • Alberto

    Make sure Joey Porter sees this. Makes you wonder if the front office is so hung up on SEC production that they overlook fundamental limitations of the player.

  • 太阳

    Good tackle by gay tho

  • mem359

    Part of Alex’s analysis was that Woodley had developed a counter/spin move, that Jones did not have his rookie year. So your example of Worilds developing that technique raises hope that the coaches can add some tools to Jones’ game.

  • whisn

    He looks all finesse to me, very different to Harrison, in these clips he seems very reluctant to even make contact with the tackle, like skirting around rather than plowing through or beating with guile and cunning? Going to be the most scutinized starter that’s for sure.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I hesitate to say this. But if I’m giving my honest opinion here (which is what discussion boards should be about)…

    I think the problems Jarvis demonstrates will be VERY difficult to fix.

    If you have a raw fast strong athlete it might be reasonable to expect to teach him technique and groom a star. But I don’t see that in Jarvis. He doesn’t have power. He doesn’t have flexibility. He doesn’t have speed.

    And to think he’s going to develop the amount of technique necessary to overcome all three of those weaknesses against NFL caliber LT’s (who also have excellent counter-technique) I think is highly unlikely.

    My hope is that Jarvis can become a good solid average to above average NFL linebacker. Like a Ziggy Hood caliber player. And that his instincts (his best trait) will allow him to make enough plays to help us win until we can develop another true stud OLB.

    Sorry if I sound pessimistic but I think Colbert and Company whiffed on this one. Jarvis has got a LONG way to go to become an elite OLB.

  • Lil Smitty

    The observations you made in this very good article might be one of the reasons why so few linebackers start as rookies for the Steelers. It might take a year of specific physical training to develop the flexibility and strength to be a good OLB.
    Jones said he is stronger this year without bulking up. The training staff might have already started working on his flexibility and strength in the off season. I think it would be difficult to become more flexible while also “bulking up”. I am hoping he shows signs of increased flexibility and strength through that range of motion.

  • joed32

    I think Porter is watching film from last year to see what JJ was doing wrong.

  • Justin Barlow

    I think it might be a little bit of a leap to say that Jones is incapable of bending the way Harrison did just because it wasnt happening last year. We don’t actually know if he was trying to get low or if he was just focused on the speed rush.

    Also, Harrison might not be the best comparison because his body type was so unique.

    Jones might better compare to a guy like Justin Houston or Brian Orakpo or Terrell Suggs (Suggs especially since they are similarly lacking in timed long speed). I would be interested to see a similar breakdown of those players. What techniques make them so successful. I would be surprised if it was the ability to get to the waist level of the tackle and rob him of his leverage. That was a unique skill Harrison possessed IMO.

  • ApexSteel

    Draft picks are normally graded after their third year anything less than that is put in the category of insufficient data. It’s clear that Jarvis struggled, but to call him a stopgap after his rookie year is extremely premature. He only had one sack, but he still had 25 hurries and he began to show promise against the run as the season wore on.

    He may take time to get to elite or even great status, but not every player hits the ground running (Antonio Brown, Cam Heyward, Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons, Mendenhall I could go on and on). The hype behind Jarvis last year was ridiculous, but that was media and fan driven. Anyone who actually watched any film on him knew he needed work.

  • Weiss Chad

    It seems in watching his college tape most of his sacks came from mismatches and on plays he was barely touched.he has a lot to work on but for some reason I have faith in the kid.I don’t ever see him being a superstar but I can see him having six to eight sacks a year.

  • CrazyTerry

    Is it too late to fire the scouts that failed to see this? Seriously, if Steeelersdepot can analyze his technique this easily, why do the Steelers fail to analyze this? I have no hope that this guy will live up to his draft status. At this point, I am hoping we will at least get a Clark Haggans type decent player out of him. And I wonder why coaches in college don’t teach technique better. Isn’t that the point of college? Oh wait, college football is more about winning than teaching. Pretty much a hypocritical amateur version of the NFL.

  • CrazyTerry

    Deebo wasn’t taken in the middle of the first round. Suitable comparison would be Timmons and Woodley taken in the first and second.

  • Bradys_Dad

    I truly believe that Silver Back has one more quality year left in him. He didn’t see a ton of snaps last year in Cincy and with our current lack of quality depth at OLB he’d be a drop in, hit the ground running (pun intended) addition. The guy is in incredible shape and even if he only plays 2 snaps per series he’s still one major concern for opposing QBs. PLEASE bring JH back for one more year !

  • Ike Evans

    can they be fixed? yes….even the flexibility can be corrected with a little thing called yoga lol its not necessarily only a natural weapon. Plenty of people and athletes improve upon that skill with certain training (even deebo). UFC fighters can attest to that personally…but will they be fixed? Who knows…thats up to jarvis. I pray he does though or we are in big trouble

  • walter mason

    Harrison knew how to use leverage and angle his body. I like how he says: “make sure you are head butting and push with your hands.”

  • Tony Richards

    Very nicely done sir. The OLB play may be the thing I pay the most attention to during preseason. In my heart of hearts I will always see Harrison as a hall of famer. His injuries and late arrival as a starter may ultimately keep him out and that will be a real shame. (reputation as a dirty player may negatively impact his chances of making the hall as well)

  • http://batman-news.com MC

    I wasn’t and am still not a fan of the pick, but your comment hits it on the head. Im still reserving full judgement, im just pessimistic about his future.

  • ApexSteel

    You have the right to your own reality my man.

  • joed32

    Easy answer, have Steelers Depot do the scouting and handle player personnel.

  • Steelers12328882

    I always considered this guy is an average player, and I think this article details why very well.

  • Jeff

    Best article I’ve seen on Steelers Depot… Just awesome

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Apex, I appreciate your opinion. And I agree that one season is insufficient data to project an entire career (with certainty.

    However, I do believe you can rank or rate a college player (pre-draft) based on his skills and physical abilities.

    And that same type of film eval/rating system can be applied after a player’s first year (as Alex has just done) to arrive at a current rank or rating.

    Antonio Brown, Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons, etc., all had elite physical abilities. Jarvis does not. And he never has. (At least not in college.)

    So how is he going to improve that? How exactly is he going to improve his speed from a 4.9 to a 4.4 like Shazier? How exactly is he going to improve his explosion from a 30″ vertical? If you have an answer please share it with entire Steelers roster.

    The fact is most players do not ever reach that elite level. It’s just reality. And I believe Jarvis falls into that group.

    Now it may be somewhat short sided to try and project a player’s career after his first year. But I also think it’s somewhat naive to believe that just because someone plays for three years in the NFL they’re going to get exponentially faster and stronger and more explosive.

    Again I will say that as a Steelers fan i HOPE he improves. I just think it is highly unlikely he can make up that much ground from a physical standpoint, even with excellent technique. He’s got a LOOOOOONG ways to go IMO.

  • planetsteelers

    This is quite possibly the dumbest comparison i’ve ever seen.

  • Zurich1012

    The breakdown on this was awesome and gave me an education. That being said my comment would be to keep everything in perspective. Harrison was cut by the Steelers and Ravens because it took him a few years to make the transition. But on the other hand Harrison’s body type is so suited and was made to move tackles. He is a physical specimen which Jones is not and also not built to be a power rusher so he is going to have to learn to do things in other ways. Porter and Harrison are not the same type of pass rusher either. If anything I think we can hope for Jones to be somewhat close to Clark Haggans which to me was an slightly above average but not dominant pass rusher. I am not excited by either of our two outside backers to be honest with you.

  • Eddie Cruz

    I think this is all correctable. The biggest problem I thought was the fact that he is trying to use a swim move when he is moving upfield. Your supposed to swim at the line of scrimmage and is typically used for down lineman. The defensive lineman beats the offense lineman off the ball and swims right past him. since he is not a down lineman he needs to speed rush, rip, or spin as a counter. He will get it. He was a rookie, I have faith.

  • Virdin Barzey

    This is really good stuff. Not what I wanted to hear about the guy that needs to have the biggest impact on the defense. I can’t disagree with your assessment because the tape doesn’t lie.

    My brother is a die hard SEC Univ of SC guy and he was not impressed with Jones one bit. He felt during his time at GA he would disappear in big games. Not to mention, he felt that Jones was a one trick pony. That rush the QB was it and his coverage left a lot to be desired.

    I hope he proves both of you wrong but the fact that they brought Porter in specifically for Jones tell me a lot. Hope he makes a huge impact on Jones. We need him to.

  • Virdin Barzey

    This is the answer to those wondering if Jones can excel. Lets see what he does this year.

  • Crazy Bone

    So finally the discussion is turning to the idea that Jones may be a bust. Another blown pick by Colbert. I always wanted Eifert because I believe he is a safe bet to be a pro bowl player. The argument was we need an OLB more. My point was that you pick talent first in the early rounds of the draft.

    Truth is the team needs two OLB because Worilds ain’t worth big money either. I think this year’s defense will be the worst the Steelers have had in a decade or more. The talent just isn’t there. Inexperience and average DL, ordinary linebackers, and a continued reliance on old players like Taylor and Troy P in the secondary. Not a good look.

  • gdeuce

    I have a feeling this years D will prove you very wrong sir

  • cencalsteeler

    With all respect, I tend to think this is a non issue. Two different body types and styles ( as of now). Harrison has lower center of gravity and is much stronger. His style is to out muscle tackles. He also has more bend because he’s preparing to change direction (spin moves). With JJ, he lacks experience and his strength is to try to out run tackles which doesn’t require as much bend. The result is he is pushed out of the arc. He will gain experience and add to his arsenal in due time. I just want to give JJ some props, cause it’s not too fair to compare a vets bag of tricks to a rookies.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Harrison was a beast. He often gave up 80 pounds to the LT he was trying to beat yet would be pushing him around and applying pressure throughout any given game. Sure technique matters but it’s Jarvis lack of strength that is hindering him. He seems to have enough speed to outrun the much bigger opponents but when he tries to dip and cut towards the QB he gets easily pushed way up the arc and way past the QB. One day we will look back and realize how truly special James Harrison was for the Steelers.

    For Jarvis Jones to be at least adequate he needs to work more on strength, strength and strength. Martial arts would certainly help all football players. Ask Joey Porter. I was hoping they would have drafted someone like Van Noy, but am also hoping Jarvis will greatly improve. He has said that he is much stronger while not having put on any weight, which could mean he has been doing some very good things in the offseason.

  • steeltown

    Well said, people need to realize we never start rookies at OLB, even the great Joey Porter and James Harrison weren’t ready to start and didn’t start immediately after entering the League.

  • Jason Vancil

    All of these flaws in his Pass Rush technique were easy to see in his college tape. I never saw him once beat a tackle with bend/strength/leverage to get the QB. I can only assume the Steelers saw the same and felt like they could coach him up. I am not so sure. Time will tell.

  • HeavyMedicine

    Good Stuff!

  • ATL96STEELER

    Lol…you state the DEF will be the worst in a decade, the talent isn’t there, etc. yet you wanted to take a TE last year? Great way to improve the DEF! If you said a S, CB, NT…hell any DEF you would at least appear to know what you’re talking about.

  • patrick Mayfield

    This is where that outside leg flies forward. He gives up on contact before it’s even made or is he trying to feint inside?

    Having bad footwork guarantees you have no functional power as Alex noted so maybe the commentary on the lack of physical strength is out of place a little.

  • patrick Mayfield

    Orakpo would be an interesting look. I remember his combine and pro-days. He was like a human Chevelle. great in a straight line but limited around the corners. I’ve always wanted to get a closer look at how he’s productive. I suspect his hands are disruptive.

  • Louis Goetz

    It’s okay, you can call them heels.

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