PITTSBURGH – In the end, the Steelers waited and got their man.
While other teams were trading picks like they were making moves on the New York Stock Exchange, the Steelers stood their ground and got the linebacker they coveted, Jarvis Jones of Georgia, one of the eight or so players they had projected as the best in this draft.
“Jarvis was one of those guys,” said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who said the team never considered making a trade out of the 17th spot in the first round.
“He was coming out of a 3-4 defense, which is unusual for the college game. You got a highly productive, really dominant SEC player.”
The Steelers entered the draft having lost wide receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Keenan Lewis, linebacker James Harrison, safeties Will Allen and Ryan Mundy, running back Rashard Mendenhall and guard Willie Colon either by release or through free agency.
Others, such as nose tackle Casey Hampton, left tackle Max Starks and guard/center Doug Legursky remain unsigned as free agents.
In other words, the Steelers’ needs were plenty.
The 6-2, 242-pound Jones filled at least one of those.
A two-time Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year at Georgia, including last season when he recorded 14.5 sacks, Jones had 28 sacks in just 26 games for the Bulldogs. He also caused nine fumbles, something the Steelers’ defense has been lacking the past two seasons.
And coming to the Steelers as an outside linebacker, the process of looking at Jones wasn’t a difficult one for the team.
“It was a fun, easy evaluation. There was very little guess work,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “He’ll be asked to do very similar things here that he did in college.”
Don’t necessarily pencil Jones into the starting lineup yet.
He’ll likely open as a backup to Jason Worilds at right outside linebacker, while also immediately helping the Steelers on special teams. Worilds, however, will be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.
“I’ve got a long way to go to be James Harrison,” said Jones, who had been working out with Steelers corner Ike Taylor in Florida.
There were some red flags with Jones, however.
Coming out high school, he originally signed with Southern California. But he was found to have spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal column – that caused the Trojans to cut him loose after he failed a physical.
Jones wound up at Georgia and played the past two seasons without issue, and the Steelers’ doctors gave him the OK on their exams.
“He played the past two seasons with it without an issue,” said Colbert. “We aren’t concerned.”
Then, Jones ran a pedestrian 4.88 in the 40-yard dash at his workout at Georgia.
“We were actually happy about that,” said Colbert. “When he ran the 4.9, we knew we had a chance. We immediately went to his agent and set up a private meeting.
“I don’t care what he runs. He’s a football player. If you watched him doing the drills, he looked like a veteran running through and chopping the bags and doing the other drills.”
The draft continues today with the second and third rounds at 6:30 p.m. Rounds four through seven will be held Saturday, beginning at noon.
The Steelers have seven remaining picks in the final six rounds, including two in the sixth round.