PITTSBURGH – Rookie Jarvis Jones has found a way to get his hands on the football in every one of the Steelers’ three preseason games.
That wouldn’t be noteworthy if Jones played on offense.
But linebackers don’t usually find a way to get their hands on the ball as often as the Steelers’ top draft pick has in this preseason.
And on a team that has created just 35 turnovers combined in the previous two seasons, Jones’ teammates are taking notice.
“For sure,” said strong safety Troy Polamalu, when asked if Jones has shown a knack for coming up with the football.
What does Polamalu, who’s known as something of a ball magnet himself, attribute that to?
“I think hustling to the ball, film study, trying to get to the ball,” Polamalu said. “An accumulation of all those things will get you around the ball more.”
Jones attributes it to something different.
“I call it lucky,” he said. “I’m just running to the ball and trying to make plays.”
The Steelers wish they had more players with that type of luck.
In Pittsburgh’s preseason opener against Washington, Jones recovered a fumble in the backfield, shooting through the defensive line to fall on the football.
The following week against Washington, he exploded off the line of scrimmage from his right outside linebacker spot to disrupt a handoff and force a fumble.
Against Kansas City Saturday night, Jones was in the right place at the right time to recover a blocked field goal attempt by Pittsburgh before it could be picked up and returned for a score by the Chiefs. Later in the game, he was in position to catch a deflected pass out of the air for an interception that was negated by a penalty.
“The ball seems to like him,” quipped linebacker Larry Foote.
Jones landed on the football while being tackled following the negated interception, knocking the wind out of him. The Steelers sent him to a Pittsburgh hospital following the game for observation to make sure he hadn’t suffered a more serious injury.
Everything checked out OK, and Jones was back at the team facility Monday, continuing his pursuit of a starting job. Jones has proven to be a quick study and is pushing veteran Jason Worilds hard for the spot vacated when the Steelers released former All-Pro James Harrison in the offseason.
Jones credits linebacker LaMarr Woodley for his help.
“I think that’s always the job, trying to get these guys ready who are coming in,” said Woodley. “These guys who are coming in as rookies should be coming in to try to take your spot and push you out. I want to make sure Jarvis is prepared. He should be pushing me. He should be pushing Jason Worilds. They should be pushing me as a starter. I want to make sure they have every opportunity to come out here and compete.”
Worilds hasn’t done anything to lose the starting job, recording eight tackles and a sack this preseason. But Jones’ playmaking ability will earn him some kind of role, even if it’s not as a starter.
Though he was held out of practice yesterday, Jones hopes to play in the preseason finale Thursday at Carolina to make one last push for the job. And if he somehow finds a way to get the football in his hands, it will be difficult for the coaching staff not to notice.
“I credit that to my defense and teammates,” Jones said. “They’re putting us in a great position to make plays. That’s what our coaches preach during the week, being able to make plays when you get an opportunity.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers made a number of roster moves late Sunday night to get down to the NFL roster limit of 75 players. Linebacker Sean Spence was placed on the PUP list, while guard Justin Cheadle and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke were placed on the Waived/Injured list. Rookie defensive end Nick Williams was placed on injured reserve. Released were offensive tackles D’Anthony Batiste and Mike Farrell, running backs Baron Batch and Jeremy Wright, receivers Tyler Shaw and David Gilreath, quarterback John Parker Wilson, cornerback Ryan Steed, tight end Peter Tuitupou and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. ... Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, who is out with a mid-foot sprain, is no longer wearing a walking boot. His return, however, remains indefinite.