The most recent rookies to nail down starting jobs with the Steelers defense no longer are with the defense. Casey Hampton is gone after a dozen years as their starting nose tackle and inside linebacker Kendrell Bell's career steadily went downhill after he was named NFL defensive rookie of the year. They took over as rookies in 2001. No rookie has won a starting defensive job since, not Troy Polamalu, not Lawrence Timmons or LaMarr Woodley, and neither of their first-round picks at defensive end, Ziggy Hood nor Cameron Heyward. Jarvis Jones could end that drought. "He's showing us things, and, if he keeps showing those things he's going to be a big part of that, hopefully," said Keith Butler, who coaches the Steelers linebackers. Butler said Jones, the team's first-round draft choice, will compete to start at right outside linebacker in training camp. His main competition to fill James Harrison's spot is veteran Jason Worilds, their second-round draft pick in 2010 who is trying to win his first starting job. One rookie has started at outside linebacker for the Steelers since the modern era of pro football began in 1970 with the merger of the NFL and the AFL. His name is Jack Ham. No other rookie has done so, and expectations were rarely there for them to do it, especially when they switched to the 3-4 defense in 1982 and began taking college defensive ends and converting them to outside linebackers. That took time, but now comes Jones fresh off Georgia's 3-4 defense and more ready-made than what the Steelers are used to at outside linebacker. "The best thing for him is his background, he played linebacker at Georgia, so he understands concepts as opposed to being a defensive end who doesn't know anything," Butler said. "He's picked some things up. There's a lot we're throwing at him right now, as we do everybody. He's still learning, but he's learning at a quicker pace than most guys we drafted at that position as a defensive end." Plenty can happen between now, training camp and when the Steelers kick off their season Sept. 8 against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field, but Jones is pushing to become the next Ham, who started all 14 games his rookie season of 1971, when he was a second-round draft pick.
Don't rule out rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones starting for Steelers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Jun 13