Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones, right, performs a special teams drill against Jonathan Dwyer during the NFL football team’s training camp in Latrobe, Pa., on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
One of the big questions at training camp this year is who will replace James Harrison at outside linebacker? Will it be 4th year man Jason Worilds or this year’s first round selection Jarvis Jones?
Worilds has the edge in experience having played 3 years in the NFL, knowing the schemes that Dick LeBeau runs and having started games as a replacement for both Harrison and LaMarr Woodley over the past few seasons. He has shown flashes of greatness and was actually among the Steelers leaders in sacks in 2012. He has the size and ability but at the same time he hasn’t shown he can do it on a consistent basis.
Worilds will need to prove in camp and again during preseason games that he can get to the quarterback consistently, stuff the run when needed and drop back in pass coverage when the down calls for it. Physically he’s as gifted as anyone but mentally he seems to be progressing at a slower rate than the black and gold would like. The speed of the game may be preventing him from picking up the plays fast enough to make the right decisions.
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds (93) goes through drills at practice during NFL football training camp at the team training facility in Latrobe, Pa. on Monday, July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Enter Jarvis Jones. While Worilds has the ability physically, the Steelers are clearly not sold on him as the answer for the long term and potentially not even immediately.
Jones fell into their laps and they snagged him with the 17th overall pick in the 2013 rookie draft indicating he, not Worilds is the future outside linebacker ofthis club. Don’t doubt for a second that they are letting him compete for the immediate job as well.
Jones has quickness, strength, and the ability to cover tight ends and running backs. He also possesses the tenacity to get the quarterback regularly. The problem is he’s
a rookie. He hasn’t done it in the NFL yet and to top that off he’ll need to learn a complicated scheme that Dick LeBeau runs.
He’ll get camp and a preseason to prove he’s the guy and he very well may do just that but the odds are against him. The Steelers generally don’t like to start rookies and as great as he may be, that may just be an obstacle too large to overcome at first.
The end result seems clear to me, though. Worilds is going to start opening day at outside linebacker in place of Harrison. He’ll put up decent numbers but won’t be overwhelming and could even make a costly error or two. Jones will steadily gain playing time as the top backup on the roster and will make multiple impact plays in doing so.
By week four or five, the roles will reverse. Jones will take over as the guy and by the end of the season he may be the best linebacker the team has on its roster. Worilds will prove to be a valuable commodity but as a backup and the defense should be stronger for having both individuals on the roster.
So who will replace James Harrison? Both. Worilds will just warm up the seat for Jarvis Jones who will be there soon and the Steelers hope for a long while after.