Jason Worilds has replaced rookie Jarvis Jones as the Steelers’ starting outside linebacker.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
No rookie has nailed down a starting job at outside linebacker since the Steelers switched to a 3-4 defense 31 years ago, and now that includes Jarvis Jones.
Coach Mike Tomlin demoted Jones, who had started four games on the right side before first a concussion derailed his progress and now not enough "detailed work" by him will keep him out of the starting lineup Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Jason Worilds, who started the season opener and the past two games, will take over the spot that became vacant this season when the Steelers released James Harrison.
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"He's just not doing enough detailed work right now, and really Jason Worilds is," Tomlin said of Jones. "That's just the reality of it. Part of playing really good defense and playing really good football period is having detail with your work. There's more detail in Worilds' work right now than there is for Jarvis."
Jones started Games 2-4 and had a hand in the first victory Oct. 13 at the New York Jets when he hit quarterback Geno Smith, causing him to flutter a pass that was intercepted by Lawrence Timmons at the Steelers 3 with three minutes left.
But he has no sacks from the defense's premier pass-rushing position, just three quarterback hurries and was out of position several times Sunday in Oakland that allowed ballcarriers to get outside of him.
"He's got to play better from an assignment standpoint," Tomlin said. "If he's capable of showing that, he'll be given an opportunity to contribute now. I think that's where our mentality is and where it should be at this juncture."
Worilds, the team's second-round draft pick in 2010, has one sack but eight quarterback pressures and a forced fumble in more limited playing time than Jones. His contract expires after the season, and the Steelers did not offer him an extension.
No one familiar with safety Troy Polamalu's rookie season would suggest Jones will wind up being a first-round disappointment 10 years later, but he did not get off to the kind of start they had hoped for the 17th overall pick in the draft.
While the coaches would have preferred to bring him along more slowly in the notoriously difficult-to-learn Dick LeBeau defense, they decided to see if he could handle the job as a starter, beginning with the second game. They still rotated Worilds into the game in his spot, but Jones was getting the brunt of the playing time until it was discovered that he had a concussion from that Oct. 13 game in New York. On the advice of their medical staff, Jones was held out of the Oct. 20 game against Baltimore.
He did not start Sunday in Oakland and played only 10 snaps to 53 for Worilds.
"Jarvis needs to continue to work. I think he's open to that, and we're open to giving him an opportunity to do so," Tomlin said.
Jones is the second first-round draft pick benched this season on defense. Tomlin also replaced Ziggy Hood (2009) at left defensive end with Cameron Heyward the past three games.
Tomlin now has made six starting lineup changes since the start of the season for performance purposes -- seven if the Worilds-to-Jones-back-to-Worilds moves count as two. Two others came on defense: Vince Williams for Kion Wilson at inside linebacker and William Gay for Cortez Allen at cornerback. On offense, Kelvin Beachum replaced Mike Adams at left tackle and Felix Jones replaced Isaac Redman before Le'Veon Bell's right foot injury healed and enabled him to take over in the fourth game.
Another new punter
The Steelers waived punter Zoltan Mesko and signed 10-year NFL veteran Mat McBriar, a native of Australia.
McBriar punted eight seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and made Pro Bowls in 2006 and 2010. He has a career average of 45.4 yards, 38.0 net.
He will be the Steelers' fifth punter in the past three seasons.
Mesko joined the Steelers Sept. 2 after the New England Patriots cut him. He ranks 31st in the NFL with a 36.7-yard net average and put only three of 34 punts inside the 20. He also failed to cleanly field a snap Sunday in Oakland, and his punt was tipped, traveled 3 yards and led to a Raiders touchdown.
The Steelers released Drew Butler, who punted for them last season, when they signed Mesko. Daniel Sepulveda and Jeremy Kapinos split the punting job in 2011.
Mesko also held for attempted field goals and extra-point kicks.
The Steelers made no other moves as the trading deadline for this season expired at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
At last, good medical news
The Steelers received good news on the three injured offensive linemen forced from the game Sunday in Oakland.
Tomlin said right guard David DeCastro (ankle) will be limited in the early practices but will have an "opportunity" to play Sunday in New England. Left guard Ramon Foster (concussion) is cleared to practice, and they will determine how he reacts during the week whether to play him in the game. Reserve Guy Whimper (hyper-extended knee) also may be limited in early practices but "we expect him to be available" to play.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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