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Wednesday July 30 2014
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Steelers sit tight, snag Georgia LB Jarvis Jones

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Just one year after being on the receiving end of what was considered a steal in offensive guard David DeCastro, the Steelers had another coveted player fall their way in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones proclaimed in the days leading up to the draft that he wouldn’t fall past Pittsburgh at the 17th overall pick, and he was right. The Steelers submitted their pick without hesitation, and locked in Jones as the headline player in their 2013 rookie crop.

“I just had a great visit and I talked to Coach [Mike] Tomlin at my pro day,” said Jones of his prediction. “I was very confident and they sounded pretty legit to me. [Tomlin] was talking about how he liked my game and how I could fit in right away.”

Tomlin reiterated that point in his joint press conference with GM Kevin Colbert following the selection, saying that Jones was a “fun and easy evaluation.”

“He plays in a very similar scheme,” offered Tomlin. “He’s asked to do things in a manner in which he’ll be asked to do it here in Pittsburgh. Very little guesswork in that regard made it a fun evaluation and made it a comfortable evaluation.”

Jones does figure to have a relatively easy transition from college to the pros as compared to other outside linebackers the Steelers have drafted. First, Jones played in a 3-4 defense in Georgia that is somewhat similar to the type of scheme that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau runs in Pittsburgh. Second, Jones already plays outside linebacker in that scheme; traditionally, the Steelers like to run with college defensive ends that they convert to a stand-up role on the outside, which is a process that often takes time.

Perhaps most importantly, Jones has already been working out and talking with current Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, whom he considers one of his best mentors.

“He just talked about how great the program is and what their defense means up there,” said the linebacker on his new teammate. “It means a whole lot. They take pride in what they do.”

The 6’2”, 245 lb. Jones started 26 games for Georgia, racking up 28.0 sacks against SEC competition, a total that ranks him third in school history. A unanimous first-team SEC selection, Jones also registered 45.5 tackles for a loss and caused nine fumbles.

That level of production had him marked to be a top-ten pick, but a poor showing in the 40-yard dash (4.9 flat) caused his stock to slide, to the benefit of the Steelers and Colbert.

“We didn’t even talk to Jarvis at the combine because we didn’t think there was any chance that he’d get to us,” said Colbert, who pegged Jones as one of the 6-8 special players he referenced in his pre-draft press conference. “When he ran the 4.9, the first thing I did was go over and see his agent and set up the visit because I knew that we had a chance. Then he continued the workout and it was off-the-charts impressive.”

Jones does come with one concern other than an uncharacteristically-slow 40 time – he has spinal stenosis, the same condition that forced former-Chargers tackle Marcus McNeill into an early retirement.

However, Jones insists that he was medically cleared by a doctor at the combine and that his condition was good to go going forward. Colbert and the team did have him double-checked – just to be sure – during his official visit.

“There was no problem,” said Colbert. “The kid has played two seasons without an issue at the University of Georgia. Of course, he had to go through a physical and just to be sure we made another check when he came in. Certainly we’re very comfortable with his medical status of we wouldn’t have made that pick.”

Regardless of his slight tumble down the draft board, Jones is excited for a fresh start with a team in which he believes he is a great fit, and one that prides itself on being stellar on his side of the ball.

“I’m just so happy to be a part of this organization,” said the linebacker in his first few lines as a member of the Steelers. “I know they have a great defense, and they always have been known for their defense. That’s something they take pride in and are very passionate about. I’m just so happy to be a part of this organization.”

 

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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