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September 7, 2014: Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) [14407] is introduce during the Cleveland Browns game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 30-27 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. Photographer: Scott Terna/Icon Sportswire
Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers counting on Jones to have his best season

Scott Terna/Icon Sportswire
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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have been waiting for Jarvis Jones to become a factor on their defense.

And waiting and waiting ever since using their first-round pick to select the linebacker 17th overall from the University of Georgia in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Jones has had just 86 tackles and five sacks in his first three seasons, statistics so uninspiring that the Steelers declined to exercise the fifth-year option for the 2017 season in his rookie contract that would have been worth $8.369 million.

His inability to consistently rush the passes has been especially frustrating to the Steelers. After all, this is a player whose Twitter handle is @SacManJones_29.

The Steelers need production from Jones more than ever this season in the wake of outside linebacker Bud Dupree undergoing surgery last week to repair a torn core muscle. Dupree will miss a minimum of eight games.

Jones is listed as the starter at right outside linebacker on the depth chart in advance of the Steelers’ opener against the Washington Redskins on Monday night at Landover, Md.

Arthur Moats will start on the left side while second-teamers James Harrison and Anthony Chickillo will also be part of the four-man rotation the Steelers use with their outside linebackers.

Jones started all 15 games in which he played last season but participated in just 40.9 percent of the Steelers’ defensive snaps. That figure is likely to go up this year, but Jones insists he does feel any extra pressure, even with free agency looming at season’s end.

“It doesn’t change anything at all,” Jones said. “Expectations are still the same. We’ve still got a good group. We’re going to miss (Dupree). We’ve still got to produce and be effective.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler has been a consistent Jones’ booster and believes he is ready to have a breakout season. Butler was the linebackers coach when Jones was drafted before being promoted to his current post prior to last season.

“I am confident this is going to be a good year for Jarvis,” Butler said. “It needs to be a good year for him. It’s his contract year. He’s got pressure on him to try to do well.”

“We think highly of him obviously because we drafted him in the first round. We think he’s capable of being a good football player if he can stay healthy. The problem with Jarvis is his whole career, up until now, is he has had little nicks and bumps that have kept him from playing. We’re excited about him playing and doing a good job.”

Dupree’s injury also gives Chickillo a chance to make an impact in his second season. He played in seven games as a rookie last season, mostly on special teams, after being the Steelers’ sixth-round draft pick from Miami and forced a fumble in limited action.

Chickillo has lost 40 pounds since last season and believes that has helped him to more easily drop into pass coverage. Though he was slowed by foot and ankle injuries in the preseason, he made a strong impression on the coaching staff and his teammates.

“He’s got a lot of upside,” Jones said. “The window is very huge for Chickillo. I think we all are excited about what he can do for our defense.”

Steelers counting on Jones to have his best season

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