The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Would Jarvis Jones even be receiving a helmet on game days if this were a healthy 53-man roster?
Over the course of the past five games, we have seen former 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones move from the starting right outside linebacker to riding the bench. Through the first eight games of the season, he logged more snaps than anybody else at outside linebacker.
Since then, he was demoted behind James Harrison, and, as of Sunday, is not playing on defense, at least by initial appearances. He played 12 snaps the week before, but mostly in mop-up duty at the end of the game.
Jones played just one snap on special teams against the Bills, and has on the season played just 20 special teams snaps, which was easily the lowest for all defensive players who have dressed and played regularly. Even Harrison has seen 28 snaps on special teams.
In contrast, Anthony Chickillo is a primary special teams contributor and leads all players with 247 special teams snaps for Pittsburgh this year. Arthur Moats, in the meantime, has himself only played 41 snaps on special teams, but he has been a key contributor in that area in past years, and could theoretically play a bigger role in that area again.
This all leads us to the question posed above. With the Steelers moving away from an outside linebacker rotation, if the Steelers actually had a healthy roster, including dressing players such as Darrius Heyward-Bey and Shamarko Thomas, who are important pieces on special teams, would Jones even dress for games?
The Steelers are already dressing 10 linebackers every game, but Jones is the only one outside of the starters who is not a significant contributor on special teams—or in the case of Moats, has been in the recent past.
In truth, Jones has played a bigger role on special teams before, at least in terms of snap counts, but it doesn’t appear as though they are interested in him resuming that sort of role. With both Chickillo and Moats capable of playing on both sides of the field—assuming the roster ever gets healthy—it is conceivable that Jones ends up on the bench.