One of the most unfair things you can ask any athlete to do is to follow a legend. Last spring, Tony Defeo chronicled the Steelers careers of David Little and Walter Abercromie, two unfortunate souls brought into the NFL with the humble request that they replace Hall of Famers Jack Lambert and Franco Harris.
- David Little had a respectable career while Walter Abercrombie was little more than average, but neither matched their predecessor.
Capsule Profile of Jarvis Jones Steelers Career
Jarvisy Jones first move in Pittsburgh was to request jersey number 95, or the number that Greg Lloyd had donned. That was a bold statement made by the man the Steelers asked to replace James Harrison.
In the early going, it looked like Jarvis Jones’ actions on the field might live up to his request. People forget, but Jones authored what then BTSC editor Neal Coolong described as “an electrifying preseason campaign” in 2013. On opening day, Jarvis Jones dramatic, behind the line of scrimmage tackle of Chris Johnson was perhaps the only positive Pittsburgh took out of their disastrous loss to the Titans.
- Things didn’t go so smoothly after that.
Jarvis Jones held down the starting spot until mid season, but the Steelers eventually decided that shifting Jason Worilds over to the left side and starting LaMarr Woodley on right gave them their best chance to win. 2014 started off strong for Jones has he recorded sacks in the season opener and the Steelers third game against Carolina.
- However, he also injured his wrist against the Panthers, leading the Steelers to pick up the Red Phone to James Harrison.
In 2015 Jarvis Jones reclaimed his starting role, but split time with James Harrison. While Jones didn’t seem to be struggling, he certainly didn’t show signs that he could pressure the passer Pittsburgh needed him to. Nonetheless, the Steelers coaching staff and/or its public relationships team continued to feed journalists stories of how Jones continued to make gains in the running game, a trend that continued into 2016.
Credit Dallas for execution here. But man, where is Sean Davis going? And Jarvis, disengage! pic.twitter.com/E5qqV1yLCe
— Steel Dad (@SteelDad) November 16, 2016
Within 48 hours Mike Tomlin was benching Jarvis Jones and starting James Harrison. The Steelers won their next 9 games, and as explained in our free agent profile of James Harrison, that is no coincidence.
The Case for the Steelers Resigning Jarvis Jones
So, with all of that said, is there a case to be made, however theoretical, in favor of the Steelers resigning Jarvis Jones? Yes, in fact there is.
Can you make a compelling argument, even in the abstract, that would justify #Steelers resigning Jarvis Jones, even as a backup?
— Steel Curtain Rising (@SteelCurtainRis) February 27, 2017
Think back to the Steelers 2015 playoff win over the Bengals. Everyone remembers Ryan Shazier strip of Jeremy Hill and Ross Cockrell’s recovery, but people forget that it was Jarvis Jones who cut across the field to tackle Hill. Jones also had a sack in the game, and made several key stops.
- Likewise, Jarvis Jones played very strong goal line defense in the season finale vs. the Browns.
To simply label Jarvis Jones as a “bust” and write off his time in Pittsburgh would be a mistake. He has shown flashes, even if he hasn’t been consistent. He might not be a starting caliber linebacker in the Steelers system, but he still has some playmaking talent and Jarvis Jones could still serve as a valuable backup.
The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Jarvis Jones
Anthony Chickillo has 2.5 sacks in 7 career starts. Arthur Moats has 11.5 sacks in 20 starts in Pittsburgh. Bud Dupree has 8.5 sacks in 9 starts. James Harrison got 5 sacks starting just 7 games this past year. How has Jarvis Jones done?
- Jarvis Jones has a mere six sacks in 35 career starts.
In watching Jarvis Jones this year the words of Gil Brandt, the Dallas Cowboys famed personnel guru repeated echoed back. Looking at Jarvis Jones’ 40 time, Brandt concluded:
I think he’s one of those guys that when you’re rushing the passer, he’s going to almost get there, but not quite.
Jarvis Jones validated Gil Brandt’s prediction over and over again during the 2016 season. The experiment has been replicated, repeatedly. And there’s only one possible conclusion: The Jarvis Jones experiment has failed.
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Jarvis Jones
There’s no suspense and no mystery behind this Steelers 2017 free agent decision. The Steelers Christmas show down with the Ravens was the franchise’s biggest regular season game since 2010 and Mike Tomlin deactivated Jarvis Jones.
- Mike Tomlin’s actions speak volumes.
Jarvis Jones has flashed enough to show that he does belong in the NFL. Perhaps in another system he can carve out a role as a starter or as a key role player. Teams don’t draft guys with the 17th pick to be mere role players. Jarvis Jones has had his chances in Pittsburgh to show he can do more, and he simply can’t.
It is time for both the Steelers and Jarvis Jones to move on.