Demoted Steelers LB Jones struggles with 'learning curve'
There are a couple of reasons the Steelers demoted rookie first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones.
Dissatisfaction wasn't one of them.
One game after having the best outing of his short career — three tackles, two quarterback pressures including one that resulted in a game-clinching interception — Jones found himself barely part of the game plan against Oakland and eventually benched during the second half of a 21-18 loss.
The reasoning wasn't because the Steelers didn't like what he was doing.
“We are not dissatisfied with him,” linebackers coach Keith Butler. “It is nothing like that. He is going to be a good player for us. Right now we are going to do what we can to win ballgames, and whatever that takes is what we are going to do.”
The Steelers feel that's not going to happen with Jones in the starting lineup. Mike Tomlin said the rookie was struggling with the “details” that go along with playing linebacker, and that showed against the Raiders.
Jones did not start the game, didn't have his first defensive snap until the fourth series and took part in only two of the seven first-half defensive series. Jones was pulled in each of those series after losing contain on Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Jones played only two plays in the second half — both on third-down pass-rush situations. At one point, television cameras caught Butler yelling at Jones on the sideline.
“We talked to him about (being demoted), and I'll leave it at that,” Butler said. “Mike (Tomlin) said that Jarvis has to take care of the details of his assignments, and that nails it.”
Jones downplayed the undressing on the sidelines but didn't downplay his continued struggles to play sound technique — an absolute must in Dick LeBeau's defense.
“They want me to be more technically sound,” Jones said. “I understand the things I have to do. It's definitely a learning curve. Before I even got here, it has been said that LeBeau's defense is challenging. I have to keep chopping wood, stay in the film room, stay in the playbook and keep learning. It doesn't happen overnight.”
LaMarr Woodley can attest to that.
Woodley, a second-round pick in 2007, found some success his rookie year but couldn't supplant Clark Haggans in the starting lineup.
“Like any rookie coming into the NFL and trying to learn this defense, it is going to be tough whether you were drafted in the first round or a free agent,” Woodley said. “Jarvis is a talented guy who is just struggling with the defense right now.”
Butler said Jones' struggles are reminiscent of every rookie linebacker he's coached.
The issues have been with Jones' “detailed work,” Tomlin said.
Translation: He's not doing what's being asked of him within the frame of the defense.
That was evident within the first five plays Jones was on the field against the Raiders. Jones lost contain on Pryor, then didn't pick up tight end Michael Rivera in pass coverage a play later. After being removed for a play, Jones was inserted back in on a third down and he lost contain on Pryor again.
Butler said there is “no doubt” that Jones will see playing time against the Patriots, most likely as a pass rusher in subpackages and spelling starter Jason Worilds until he gets another opportunity to start.
“I am going to be ready for my opportunity,” Jones said.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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