Pittsburgh Steelers rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones gave Steeler fans quite a scare on Saturday night being taken off the field on a gurney. After Jones intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ third preseason game against the Kansas City Cheifs, Jones laid out on the field leaving all of us to wonder if he was the next to be hit by the Steelers’ rookie injury curse.
Over the last year and a half the Steelers have lost six rookies to injuries including their top three picks in last year’s draft and two from this year; running back Le’Veon Bell and cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Bell is currently out of commission with a foot injury that will keep him off the field for 6-8 weeks.
So what was wrong with Jones? Jones got the wind knocked out of him. The rookie linebacker spent the night in the hospital and was back on the practice field the next day in high spirits looking to take the starting linebacker job from Jason Worilds.
The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year and first round draft pick has been a turnover machine for the Steelers during this preseason. In three games Jones has forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, and made an interception (but it got taken away because of a pass interference penalty). Jones has yet to record a sack but he has made many plays in coverage and has gotten close on a number of occasions.
The Steelers need a guy who is able to get pressure on the quarterback and is also able to cause turnovers. Jones might still be learning the complicated Dick Lebeau zone blitzing scheme, but throughout the preseason he has done nothing but make big plays. He will not play in the fourth preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday but the young linebacker has a strong chance to be one of the first rookies to start at outside linebacker for the Steelers. He would certainly be the first in the Dick Lebeau era.
Jarvis Jones is a perfect fit the Steelers’ defense and will become a star. The potential is there for Jones to be a perennial Pro Bowler in the NFL; the Steelers should let him take the reigns and watch the defense get better as he matures within the NFL.