Ever since James Harrison departed from the Steel City via free agency, figuring out who will start at outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers this upcoming 2013 season has been one of the biggest questions floating over the head of the organization. The Steelers have definitely prepared themselves to fill that void by drafting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones with the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft.
However, even adding the nation’s leading sacker isn’t enough to persuade some current Steelers that the rookie will win the starting job. Starting inside linebacker Larry Foote believes that Jason Worilds will be the team’s starting outside linebacker at the start of the season.
Foote says that it will be a complicated task for Jones to win the starting spot, but the one thing that he said that Jones has going for him is the fact that he played in the 3-4 alignment in college.
“I’ve seen a lot (of players) come in as rookies and not have a clue, but you can tell he’s been around our type of football,” said Foote.
Though Jones has some familiarity with the 3-4 scheme, he doesn’t have history on his side. Traditionally, Pittsburgh doesn’t start rookies on defense. Current linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley were first and second-round draft picks, respectively, in 2007, and neither one started their first year. In addition, safety Troy Polamalu, who was the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, didn’t even start as a rookie.
The one thing that Jones has in his corner, is his ability to force turnovers. As mentioned before, Jones led the nation in sacks in 2012 with 14.5. Along with that, he also led the nation in tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven). Turnovers were something that was lacking from Pittsburgh’s No. 1 ranked defense last season.
As of right now, the position of right outside linebacker is for Worilds to lose. In 2012, the fourth-year veteran only started three games and had a total of five sacks. With the opportunity of being a full-time starter, we’ll see if he can live up to expectations that many have for a dominant pass rusher wearing the black and gold.
If by some chance Worilds can’t produce, look for Jones to step in immediately.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+