Jarvis Jones again big question mark heading into offseason

PITTSBURGH -- Jarvis Jones, chatty and friendly, has been one of the more accommodating players to the media in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room.

But a question of whether the outside linebacker needs to get bigger during the offseason caused Jones to all but roll his eyes last week.

"If y'all want me to be bigger I'll be bigger," Jones, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, told reporters. "I just feel like you've got to be stronger and you've got to know the game. If you make plays and do the things you need to do, size doesn't really matter."

The problem for the Steelers is they don't have a much better idea of whether Jones needs to get bigger to succeed at this level than they did at this time a year ago.

A dislocated wrist derailed Jones' season -- he missed 11 games and wasn't the same when he did return -- making the 2013 first-round draft pick again one of the biggest concerns heading into the offseason.

The Steelers desperately need Jones to emerge as an impact edge pass-rusher, and they need everything to fall into place for the former University of Georgia All-American next season -- from staying healthy to taking advantage of the opportunity he will have in 2015, with so much uncertainty at outside linebacker.

The Steelers are encouraged by the growth they saw from Jones in the first two and a half games this season before he hurt his wrist. But they realize it is only a small sample size, something Jones also acknowledged.

"Before my injury I really think I was on the right path of having a good season," Jones said. "Not saying I was going to have a mind-blowing season because we don't know. Coach Joey [Porter] really coached me up and had some good things going and that injury just threw me back."

Jones worked his way back from the injured reserve/designated to return list to play in Pittsburgh's final five games. But Jones played sparingly behind James Harrison at right outside linebacker.

"He was playing with a hurt hand," Harrison said. "He wasn't really using it. From previous tape I ended up seeing before he got hurt, he was looking good."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said how Jones dealt with the injury is a significant part in evaluating the latter's second NFL season.

"How susceptible you are to injury is an element of the evaluation. We all are evaluated on all elements on how we perform," Tomlin said. "Oftentimes we have no control over some of the things that happen to us. We have all the control over how we respond and how we bounce back.

"I would imagine that he knows a lot more about himself as a football player and a professional now than he did prior to that injury. It creates misery, short-term misery, but also an opportunity for big-time growth. It will be interesting to see what that discussion is for him from his perspective and from ours as we move forward with him."

Jones, the only Steelers outside linebacker signed beyond 2014, plans to work with Marcel Pastoor, the team's assistant strength coach, before returning to Atlanta to train with Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014.

Whether Jones can approach Houston's level as a pass-rusher -- the two were college teammates and are close friends -- remains to be seen. Just as uncertain is who will be playing outside linebacker with Jones next season in Pittsburgh.

Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats will be unrestricted free agents in March unless the Steelers sign both or use a tag on Worilds for the second year in a row. Harrison hasn't decided if he wants to play in 2015, and the Steelers may move on from the 12-year veteran.

"Hopefully they'll come back," Jones said. "I love playing with those guys. They're very passionate about this game and they respect this game."