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Steelers' Jones looks to improve during rookie season

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 9:39 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones rushes Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, at Wembley Stadium in London.

Jarvis Jones is hard on himself when it comes to self-evaluation. The Steelers' rookie linebacker is getting better, but he acknowledges there's plenty of room for growth.

The Steelers' first-round draft pick played relatively well in losses to Chicago and Cincinnati. At times, he appeared confused in the team's loss Sunday to Minnesota.

It's not unusual for a rookie to be in all the wrong places at the wrong time. However, Jones figures he's learned a great deal from his mistakes as he tries to assimilate into one of the league's more complex defenses.

“No one is doing well enough to win,” safety Troy Polamalu said. “So that's all that matters at this point. It's tough to evaluate (Jones) now. It's tough to come in and play as a rookie, especially in this defense.”

Jones, who will have a week to assess his progress before facing the Jets on Oct. 13, plans to spend more time in the film room in an effort to boost a pass rush that has only four sacks during an 0-4 start.

“Things are starting to slow down for me a little,” said Jones, who has 10 unassisted tackles and four tackles on special teams. “I know what I need to do to get better. My teammates have been coaching me up to put me in the right place. I'm getting good feedback so I can understand the defense.”

Jones is hesitant to grade himself. But he gave himself a passing mark — albeit barely.

“I'm always hard on myself in these situations,” he said. “My production isn't where I want it to be. The Steelers brought me in here to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers. I haven't done any of that yet. So my grade wouldn't be very high, but I'm searching for ways to get better.”

Jones got off to a fast start in the preseason. He recorded a couple of sacks and consistently pressured the quarterback. He also convinced defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau that he was ready to assume the starting job.

Jones, sharing duty with Jason Worilds, has learned the hard way that NFL offenses are more difficult to figure out. As a result, he has had to rely more on his smarts and technique instead of his physical abilities and raw talents.

“He's doing all right,” veteran cornerback Ike Taylor said. “He's still learning. He's got to find himself and trust his abilities and understand why he's a No. 1 pick. He's got to know where everyone is on the defense. He has to understand where he has to be. Once he starts doing that, he's going to be one helluva player.”

Jones said he won't be satisfied until he starts to make things happen for a struggling defense that has been vulnerable to the big play and hasn't forced a turnover this season.

“We have to get offenses behind the 8-ball,” he said. “I haven't had an opportunity to create any chaos because we've behind in games.”

The Steelers, of course, are looking to Jones to create turnovers and sacks that will get them back in games.

“We've got to get teams more into third-down passing situations, and I think that will make Jarvis an even more effective player,” said defensive end Cam Heyward, a former No. 1 draft pick. “Jarvis enjoys the challenge, and he knows he's a work in progress.

“He's got the mindset to be a great outside linebacker. He is learning so much at a high level, and when it really clicks, the sky will be the limit.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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