The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation of not starting players during their rookie season. Recently, the only exceptions have been center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro, who would have started his rookie season had he not injured his knee during preseason last year.
However, the fact remains that the Steelers usually don’t hand over starting jobs to rookies just because they were first-round draft picks. After selecting linebacker Jarvis Jones with the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, some are speculating that Jones could perhaps be the team’s starting right outside linebacker.
As of right now, Jason Worilds is next in line for that position. Worilds played the first three years of his professional career behind James Harrison, and now could have Jones breathing down his neck.
I’m sure that Jones will have to prove to head coach Mike Tomlin that he is worthy of starting during training camp and the preseason, but looking at how things are lined up for the former Georgia Bulldog, there could be a possibility that he supplants Worilds.
The last time Pittsburgh drafted an outside linebacker in the first round was when they selected Huey Richardson in 1991. Since then, the Steelers usually drafted undersized defensive ends and molded them into outside linebackers. Jones is a natural outside linebacker that played in a 3-4 alignment in college, and has recorded 28 sacks over the last two seasons.
Making the adjustment from the collegiate to the professional level may not be too much of a challenge for Jones. Furthermore, if Jones produces as he did during his final two years at Georgia, he could become the Steelers’ first rookie defensive starter that the franchise has seen in a long time.
As for Worilds, this upcoming 2013 season marks the final year of his contract. Worilds’ performance this year will dictate his future with the organization, and the rest of his career. Usually, players on the last year of their contract do everything that they can on the field to get a big payday in free agency. This just might be the case for Worilds.
The competition to watch this summer will be between Worilds and Jones. Clearly, the right outside linebacker spot is for Worilds to lose. He’s already slated as the starter, and the presence of Jones just might bring out the best in him.
However, even in the event that Worilds does have a breakout season, chances are that he just might end up signing with another team as a free agent.
We also have to see how fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley performs on the other side of the defense. If Woodley has another disappointing season and Worilds improves, I can see the Steelers’ coaching staff replacing Woodley with Jones on the right side.
Overall, Jones will have to earn the right to be a starting linebacker for Pittsburgh. Personally, I don’t think that Jones will be a starter in Week 1, but he has a very good chance of starting at some point in the regular season.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google