PITTSBURGH -- Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has given Jarvis Jones several votes of confidence this season.
LeBeau added to his total earlier this week, a day after the rookie outside linebacker acknowledged that he has been disappointed about his production this season.
“I’m very pleased with his progress,” LeBeau said Thursday of the Steelers’ first-round pick in April. “His out-of-position arrows have diminished. He almost is never in the wrong place now. I think the more comfortable he gets, I think you’re going to see that this guy is going to be a really good football player.”
Jones became the Steelers’ starting right outside linebacker after the second game of the season, but he struggled to consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and gave way to Jason Worilds.
Jones is now playing behind LaMarr Woodley, who flipped sides with Worilds because of how well the latter has played at left outside linebacker.
Jones’ development is critical for the Steelers because it is unlikely that they will keep both Worilds and Woodley beyond this season.
Worilds, who is having a breakout campaign, will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Steelers probably won’t be able to re-sign Worilds unless they part ways with Woodley, who signed a six-year, $61.5 million contract in 2011.
The offseason will be a key one for Jones, who is 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds. He knows he has to get bigger and strengthen his grasp of the defense.
Jones is the first rookie to start at outside linebacker since the Steelers went to a 3-4 defense in 1982, and that distinction shows how steep the learning curve is for a young player at his position.
He has just one sack and 30 tackles this season, but LeBeau is anything but discouraged with the progress the 17th overall pick of the 2013 draft has made.
“He’s been asked to play a little bit more than what we normally ask our first-year linebackers to play,” LeBeau said. “In the end, that’s going to be a big benefit for him because he’s got that on-the-job training and in-game experience.”
When told that LeBeau said he was on the right track, Jones smiled.
“He’s right,” the former Georgia star said. “I’ve just got to continue to work hard and continue to take advantage of my opportunities to get better.”