The Pittsburgh Steelers selected a linebacker, Jarvis Jones, in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft for the first time in six years. In the 2007 draft, the Steelers took Lawrence Timmons in the first round and LaMarr Woodley in the second round. Currently, both Woodley and Timmons are entrenched as starters for the Steelers and both are signed to long term contracts. Though Woodley has been hampered by injuries the last couple seasons, he is still one of the best pass rushers in the league. Timmons is one of the more underrated players in the league and either tied for the team lead or flat out led the team in solo tackles, sacks and interceptions in 2012.
Though both the veteran linebackers are relatively unquestioned now, when they were rookies one clearly had a larger role. More hype surrounded Timmons because of where he was selected but he battled through an injury before the season and mainly saw the field on special teams his rookie year. His second season was when the team used Timmons as kind of a do everything linebacker while moving him all over the field to put pressure on the quarterback. That season Timmons finished with five sacks and an 89 yard interception returned for a touchdown. Timmons became the full time starter on the inside in 2009 when Larry Foote left for free agency.
As a rookie, Woodley backed up then starter, Clark Haggans and tallied four sacks in his limited time on the field. He then added two more sacks in the Steelers playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Woodley took over for Haggans in his second year and racked up 11.5 sacks and an interception. The sack numbers for Woodley have gone down in three consecutive years now yet if he can stay healthy, he should have no problem putting down double digit quarterbacks in 2013.
Which rookie year will we see out of Jarvis Jones?
Well at this point it looks more like Lawrence Timmons, since Jones has had to deal with a hamstring injury he suffered during his Pro Day. Now it’s completely unfair to truly compare Timmons injury to Jones’ because Timmons ultimately missed most of training camp with his. Jones already came back to practice and it looks like he’ll be one hundred percent ready when training camp starts.
There is also the wildcard of how well Jason Worilds plays as the starter in 2013. I don’t think there is any way Worilds is re-signed after the year yet if he plays well then the team may not play Jones that much on defense. If Worilds struggles you could see a major rotation with Jones to try and get the pass rush picked up.
This is why we won’t really get a sense for what we’ll get out of Jones his rookie year until training camp starts and we see how much of the defense he has grasped. If I had to make an educated guess though on what I think is going to happen then I think we’ll see more of Woodley’s rookie season than Timmons’.
I say that because if Jones has proven one thing in college, 28 sacks and seven forced fumbles, is that he can disrupt an offense. I have a feeling that Dick LeBeau will find a way to work Jones in even if it is only on passing downs to rush the quarterback.
Either way I see Jarvis Jones being the starting outside linebacker opposite LaMarr Woodley in 2014.