Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lb Jones Gets Plenty of Opportunities

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lb Jones Gets Plenty of Opportunities

Article excerpt

Three days before the season opener against the Redskins, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler revealed that he planned to rotate his outside linebackers at the start of the season. The reasoning behind the decision was hot and humid weather and the fact that none of the four outside linebackers were in game condition yet.

It didn't take Butler and head coach Mike Tomlin very long to change their minds. They've seen something they like in Jarvis Jones and he's playing far more than anyone expected, including him.

Jones, who is in the final season of his rookie contract, has played 74 percent of the team's defensive snaps. It's a big jump from what he was asked to do in his first three seasons.

As rookie, Jones played 59 percent of the defensive snaps. He injured his wrist early in his second season and played only 23 percent of the snaps. Last season, when he was expected to take a big step in his development, he only played 41 percent of the snaps, fewer than James Harrison, Bud Dupree and Arthur Moats, the other linebackers in the rotation.

"I didn't expect it, but that's the rotation now," Jones said Wednesday. "They're definitely rocking with me and giving me an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it."

Jones has been thrust into a more prominent role with Dupree out for at least the first half of the season with an abdominal injury. Dupree was set to be the starter on the left side and Jones on the right. But with Dupree out, Jones is playing both sides.

"Jarvis has played well for us and we want to find ways for him to continue to play, even as we rotate others in, so he's been the guy we've identified of being capable of playing on either side," Tomlin said.

Jones, the No. 17 overall selection in the 2013 draft, is busy trying to learn as much as he can about playing on the left side of the defense. He played the vast majority of his snaps on the right side his first three seasons.

Playing on the right side of the defense always meant playing the run well because most offenses run to the right the majority of the time. Playing on the left side means Jones will get more opportunities to rush the passer, but it also means he'll be seeing the best pass protectors in the league because offensive coordinators usually put their top tackles on the left to protect the quarterback's blind side. …

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