PITTSBURGH -- Jarvis Jones will make his first career start Monday night, and Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler may be just as excited about that as the team’s first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft is.
“We just want to see this young guy, and we think he’s going to be productive,” Butler said. "The more he plays the better off he’s going to be and so we’re going to try to get some improvement out of him. At the same time, Jason [Worilds] played well for us last week and hopefully he’ll continue to play well.”
Worilds giving way to Jones at right outside linebacker isn’t an indictment of the former as much it is as an endorsement of the latter.
Indeed, the Steelers will continue to use a three-man rotation at outside linebacker so they can also keep LaMarr Woodley fresh. But Jones, barring injury, will play the majority of the snaps at right outside linebacker against the Bengals.
“I’m ready for it,” the former Georgia star said. “I’m going to take full advantage of it and just try to make it count. It’s all about staying focused and prepared.”
Jones has done well enough in both areas to ascend to the starting lineup -- something that rookies rarely do so early in their career while playing in Dick LeBeau’s complex defense.
And he has consistently made an impact when he has been on the field, whether in preseason games or last Sunday when both tackles that Jones registered went for losses.
The first one came in the second quarter when Jones blew up Titans running back Chris Johnson and dropped him for a 2-yard loss. That kind of play could be a preview of things to come from the player whom the Steelers drafted as James Harrison's successor at right outside linebacker.
Jones spent part of his offseason working out with cornerback Ike Taylor at Tom Shaw Performance Camp in Orlando, Fla., and Butler said, “He’s in real good shape; better than I thought he would be.”
What has Butler really excited about Jones is how much better the latter will be once he gets stronger. Jones is listed at 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, and his frame can clearly handle more bulk without compromising his speed.
“He’s a big, tall, long basketball-looking type of guy, and I told him he needs to start looking like a football player instead of a basketball player,” Butler said. “He will. He’s a great kid. He’s confident but humble, and that’s a great combination in my opinion.”