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For Steelers outside linebacker Jones, size is not an obstacle

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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones plays against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, at Lincoln Financial Field.

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Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Jarvis Jones has a message to everybody out there who thinks he's too small to be a successful outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 defense.

“You ever see me get put on my back?” Jones said.

Jones quickly answered his own question.

“I don't think so,” he said.

The Steelers always have liked bigger outside linebackers, especially in the Dick LeBeau era with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

But when the Steelers drafted Jones in the first round last year, they showed they valued speed over size.

At 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, Jones is the second-smallest projected starting 3-4 outside linebacker in the league behind only Cleveland's Barkevious Mingo.

“In the NFL, you can't go off size. You go off heart, and Jarvis does a lot of that for us,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “He is a player who can fit the bill for our defense.”

You don't have to be big to be a successful outside linebacker in the 3-4, especially rushing the quarterback. The Indianapolis Colts' Robert Mathis is the same size as Jones and has 111 career sacks. Clay Matthews is an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier and is averaging 10 sacks a year in Green Bay. Neither can be considered stout at the point of attack, but they aren't a liability, either.

“It's a passing league,” Jones said. “Everybody wants somebody who is fast and can move. I would love to look like Woodley — big, strong, muscles and move and play the way I do. It would be great. But that's not my game, so I have to work with what I have.”

Jones' game is more speed, quickness and getting off the ball. His 245-pound frame could lead to him getting pushed off the ball in the run game, but that hasn't been much of a problem.

Getting to the quarterback has.

Jones became the first rookie outside linebacker to start for the Steelers since they went to the 3-4 in 1982, and he struggled at times. Jones started eight of 14 games but managed only one sack and 11 quarterback pressures in 308 pass-rushing attempts.

Jones played his best game in the season finale against Cleveland when he had nine tackles while facing All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas.

More is expected from Jones this season, and that was evident when the Steelers cleared the path for him by releasing Woodley in the offseason. The Steelers had only 34 sacks last year — a 25-year low.

“There is a lot of pressure,” Jones said. “My teammates want me to produce, my coaches want me to produce, and I need to produce. They are giving me an opportunity to start and become a player and produce. Now I have to hold up my end of the bargain.”

In two preseason games (82 snaps), Jones has a sack, five tackles and a pair of quarterback pressures.

“I like the work that he has done,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “By no means he is a finished product.”

Jones has been working with Joey Porter, a defensive assistant, on different pass-rushing moves. Jones sacked Eli Manning during the first preseason game with an inside move, something he didn't have in his arsenal last season.

“I am playing faster and am more comfortable with the defense,” Jones said. “I still have areas to improve on. I am not there yet, so I am not going to say that I am. I feel like the better I learn the game the better my pass rushing will go. The better I learn exactly what we are trying to do on defense, the better my game will be.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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