If their is two things the city of Pittsburgh is known for it is; 1.)Steel Mills 2.) Solid Linebacker play. Generations of Steeler Fans have enjoyed some of the best linebacker history in all of football. From the days of Jack Lambert and Jack Ham to Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd in the 90′s. A series of great linebackers have followed In Lambert and Ham’s legendary footsteps including: Levon Kirkland, Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, James Farrior, Kendrell Bell, and even Chad Brown and recently departed James Harrison get an honorable mention for their outstanding play as Steeler linebackers.
The list goes on and on, as does the tradition established by Dick LeBeau with his 3-4 defense. LeBeau has implanted his legacy as the Steel Curtains coordinator, and let me tell you this man knows talent.
LeBeau and the Steelers have produced such talent through their system as if on an assembly line. The recipe for success relies on large defensive lineman to occupy blockers, and tuff yet versatile linebackers, which Pittsburgh has set the bar for 3-4 defensive schemes everywhere to follow. Fast athletic linebackers on the outside, utilized in the pass rush, as well as, coverage of tight ends and running backs in the flat. Inside backers have to be tuff as nails, able to take on offensive lineman, shed blocks, and fill gaps against the run game.
Dick LeBeau may be continuing his legacy of selecting talent to replace departed players. Jarvis Jones was selected by Pittsburgh in the first round of this years draft, in a move that foreseen the future of recently released veteran James Harrison, and could number the days Jason Worilds enjoys as a starter. This kid Jarvis Jones cannot only play the position, but can dominate from the outside. With experience in the 3-4 scheme at Georgia, the question remains; What role will the rookie play this season? Pittsburgh’s tradition has been to slowly breed superstar linebackers, some even waiting a couple seasons before cracking the starting line-up.
Could Jarvis Jones be the talent that breaks tradition? Jones was an outstanding linebacker in College, and possess the work ethic to be a stud in the NFL. Still not convinced? Last season in 12 games at Georgia, Jones led the nation with 14.5 sacks, adding 85 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 7 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and an interception.
Jason Worilds is entering his 4th season with the Steelers, and while showing some promise at times, Worilds was a part time player in 2012. Even during an injury plagued season for Steeler linebackers, Worilds played in all 16 games, but only played 43% of the snaps on defense. Worilds Stat totals were even less impressive, totaling 23 solo tackles, 4 assisted tackles, and 5 sacks. Worilds main issue is not having the nose for the football, like many past Steeler linebackers, and like rookie Jarvis Jones.
Pittsburgh only had 37 sacks in 2012, finishing 16th in the league. A number Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau, and Steeler nation would like to see improved this coming 2013 season. It could take the dynamic play of a young budding star such as Jones to rejuvenate an aging Pittsburgh defense, providing the push up front, setting up the rest of the defense for success.
History would point to the veteran Jason Worilds replacing James Harrison, with Jarvis Jones being worked as a 3rd down pass rush specialist. Current veteran teamates such as LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons started their careers on the bench for the Steel Curtain, so it could be LeBeau’s thinking that the rookie Jones doesn’t need to start to make an impact. Even veteran linebacker Larry Foote (113 Tackles 4 Sacks) knows it will be hard for Jones to start right away, and this topic has been highly debated in Steel Country. Being that Dick LeBeau is old school and sticks to tradition, it is hard to predict Jarvis Jones to start right away. I can however predict this guy will play, and will have an immediate impact on 3rd downs and maybe special teams. If Jones is not starting by week one, don’t panic Steeler fans, because he will be before the end of the season, and beyond.