PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers officially demoted rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones to second team earlier this week. But that doesn’t mean Dick LeBeau is in any way discouraged about the progress the team’s first-round pick is making.
The longtime defensive coordinator, in fact, gave Jones a vote of confidence less than a week after the latter played just 11 snaps in the Steelers’ 21-18 loss at Oakland.
“I think Jarvis is on schedule for a first-year linebacker,” LeBeau said. “I don’t think he’s any further ahead or behind than James Harrison was, than Jason Worilds was, than LaMarr Woodley was. I think J.J. is going to be fine.”
Jones, who had been starting ahead of Worilds at right outside linebacker, has 19 tackles and three quarterback pressures this season. The former Georgia star is still in search of his first NFL sack, and LeBeau indicated that Jones will get significant playing time Sunday at New England.
When asked if the Steelers need to play Jones 10 to 15 snaps to keep him engaged LeBeau said, “More than that. Jarvis is a playmaker and I’ve got to find ways to put him in [position] where we can make plays. I look for good things from Jarvis.”
LeBeau’s more immediate concern is eliminating the big plays that the Steelers’ defense has given up this season. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor went untouched 93 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game last Sunday. It was the fourth play the Steelers have given up this season that exceeded 50 yards.
“I think we’re making progress as a defense,” LeBeau said. “We’ve got to make bad plays be of the 16-to-18-yard variety and not of the 30, 50 and 95 yards. That’s the difference in us getting over the top and getting the numbers where we need them to be.”