The last thing the Pittsburgh Steelers needed to see in the fourth quarter of a preseason game is their prized rookie staying down after adding another big play to his impressive, if early, body of work.
The fans that had stayed at Heinz Field Saturday night, well after the starters had left the game, seemed to exhale collectively when outside linebacker Jarvis Jones got up and jogged to the opposite sidelines. The Steelers were just as relieved Sunday when X-rays taken on Jones’ injured chest proved to be negative.
Jones is a big part of the Steelers’ future, and it is becoming increasingly clear he will at least share time this season with Jason Worilds as the two try to replace five-time Pro Bowler James Harrison at right outside linebacker.
Jones has an undeniable presence when he is on the field and the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder showed it in a 26-20 overtime loss to Kansas City -- whether he was burying Knile Davis on a kickoff return or making the interception that, while negated by a penalty on a Steelers teammate, showed that Jones has a nose for the ball.
The first-round draft pick is still learning Dick LeBeau’s defense, and he will have to prove to the Steelers’ coaches that he can consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
But the loss of Jones for an extended period would have compromised the Steelers’ depth at outside linebacker and left them with few options behind Worilds and left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. It would have also weakened them on special teams where the Steelers have been shaky during the preseason.
The Steelers will be cautious as far as how much they let Jones do this week, and they really don’t need to see him in the final preseason game Thursday night at Carolina.
Jones has already shown he can contribute on defense and on special teams this season.
And fortunately for the Steelers, it looks like they didn’t receive much more than a scare from Jones’ brief stay in the hospital.