OLB Jones Making Steady Progress

By Jim Wexell
Posted Aug 12, 2013

Jarvis Jones (LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

Steelers LB coach Keith Butler defends everything about rookie Jarvis Jones -- until Butler's asked for superlatives. Read how Jones is being coached up:

LATROBE -- When a team blitzes the podium on draft day with the name of an outside linebacker in hand, that outside linebacker in turn is expected to blitz the quarterback like he's Lawrence Taylor.

At least that's a fan's perspective.

They, of course, are looking for sacks out of Steelers rookie Jarvis Jones.

"Well, I am too," said linebackers coach Keith Butler. "I'm hoping for 15, 16 sacks, too. We talked about this today. But he's got to have a couple of rushes. He can't have all hand slaps, all getting on the edge of people. He's got to get down in the middle of people and what we call walk the dog on them, too."

Walk the dog?

"Collapse the pocket," Butler explained. "Take a 350-pound guy, get right up under his face, and walk him back to the quarterback."

Jones showed glimpses of that ability Saturday night. He didn't get his sack but both he and Jason Worilds "walked the dog" at times the way the team's LOLB, LaMarr Woodley, can.

Larry Foote has been saying since spring practices that the Steelers' coaching staff is looking to get all three of those outside linebackers on the field at the same time on some third downs this season. Foote repeated it yesterday.

"We've got a lot of packages," Foote said. "They do some tricky stuff, especially on third down, a lot of different packages, so I see them all on the field doing stuff."

But Butler would first just like to find a way to get all three on the field in some sort of rotation.

"That's not a problem if we can keep them healthy and fresh," Butler said. "I want them to be, in the fourth quarter, when it gets (rug)-cutting time, I want them to be able to play without being tired."

James Harrison, the man Jones hopes to replace completely some day, believed that rushing the passer off the edge was the most exhausting job in the game.

"It is," Butler said. "You think about wrassling somebody every play that outweighs you by 60, 70 pounds, and you're wrassling with him every play and the coach is hollering 'Turn and run! Turn and run! Turn and run!' That's hard to do."

Especially when that coach is also hollering about your responsibilities. That's what Butler is trying to teach his first- round pick right now.

"There are some things, some defenses we call, where he's got to stay outside and stay within the discipline of the defense. And right now he's got to learn which is which," Butler said. "That's part of his transition, to learn 'When can I go inside?'

"He's got a great inside move. He is as quick as anybody. When he gets that edge, or that inside move on you, it's very hard to stop him from getting to the quarterback. He's real good at that, but there are certain things, that, when we have a lot of things going on inside of him -- stunts and games and stuff like that -- that if he does go inside he's going to run into somebody. And so we don't want to put him in position where he's running into somebody else's rush lane. We want to keep him outside, so it's not just all him doing what he wants to. He's got to do what the defense requires."

Of course, Harrison was thinking outside of his responsibilities in Super Bowl 43 and he made a pretty good play.

"Then two years later he does the same thing and gets a touchdown scored on him by Tom Brady," Butler said. "Those are great when they work."

Saturday night, in his first preseason game, Jones jumped on a fumble and made 2 tackles. He also held the point in the run game like a seasoned pro and late in the third quarter sniffed out a throwback screen and made a tackle in the open field that brought up fourth down.

"Look how heavy his hands are," Butler said of Jones' run defense. "He's got real strong hands."

And his coverage abilities?

"When he went to Southern Cal, they recruited him as a middle linebacker, so he knows some coverage concepts," Butler said. "He doesn't know how to play with the intensity that he needs to be playing with. He's starting to learn what we expect from him. What we expect from him is a little bit more discipline than what he is used to in terms of pass-coverage techniques.

"I don't want to coach him out of being a good football player. There's a fine line in doing that, but at the same time there are some things you've got to do in pass coverage that if you don't do you're going to get beat."

NOTES -- Le'Veon Bell returned to practice and ran hard and made sharp cuts. ... Rookie CB Terry Hawthorne also returned to the practice field after missing most of the first two weeks of camp with a knee injury, which also kept him out of spring practices. ... ILB Stevenson Sylvester suffered a sprained ankle Saturday night when he took a hit from teammate Markus Wheaton. Sylvester said he'll return to practice Thursday. ... The Steelers finished practice without their second-team guards when Chris Hubbard didn't suit up and Justin Cheadle was carted off with a leg injury. ... NT Steve McLendon was permitted to join his wife, who was due with their child yesterday.