Steelers demote Jones, release Mesko
PITTSBURGH – Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones wasn’t on the field Sunday for the 93-yard touchdown run the Steelers allowed to Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor on the opening play of a 21-18 loss to the Raiders.
And he might not be on the field much when the Steelers (2-5) play at New England Sunday to play the Patriots (6-2).
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Tuesday that Jones, who had been the starter at right outside linebacker, has been demoted to second team behind Jason Worilds.
It wasn’t the lone change the Steelers made as punter Zoltan Mesko was released and replaced on the roster by veteran Mat McBriar, a 10-year veteran who has kicked for Dallas and Philadelphia.
The demotion of Jones, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick, came after Worilds started and saw the majority of snaps against the Raiders.
Jones, who returned after sitting out a 19-16 win over Baltimore with a concussion two weeks ago, played a season-low 10 snaps against Oakland, compared to 53 for Worilds. It was the first time since the regular-season opener that Jones had seen fewer snaps than Worilds when both were active.
“He’s just not doing enough detailed work right now, and Jason Worilds is,” Tomlin said. “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. 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.”
When the season began, Worilds, a 2010 second-round draft pick, was listed as the starter with Jones, the 17th pick in this year’s draft, the backup. That changed in Week 2, when Jones became the starter and Worilds would spell him at times.
The Steelers could be making the move in an effort to get more production out of Jones, who has 15 tackles, three quarterback pressures and has yet to record his first NFL sack. Worilds has 12 tackles, eight pressures and a sack. He’s also forced a fumble.
Jones was pulled from the game in the second quarter during Oakland’s third touchdown drive and only played on special teams after that.
“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.”
The release of Mesko, who replaced last year’s punter, Drew Butler in the week leading up to the start of the regular season, was not a surprise. Last week, Tomlin said he needed more consistency out of his punter, saying Mesko had made a “junior varsity” punt in every game.
Against the Raiders, Mesko failed to handle a snap cleanly and it led to a partially blocked punt that set up Oakland’s second touchdown.
“He’s been inconsistent, and that’s not good enough,” Tomlin said.
McBriar, an Australian who learned to kick playing Australian rules football, has averaged 45.4 yards per punt in 129 career games. He played eight seasons with Dallas before spending last year with Philadelphia.
Mesko ranked 31st in the league with a 42.5 per punt average. He also had an NFL-low three punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
The NFL trade deadline was Monday. ... Guards David DeCastro (ankle), Ramon Foster (concussion) and guard/tackle Guy Whimper (knee) each left the game against the Raiders with injuries. Tomlin said all could be play against New England, though DeCastro might be limited in practice early in the week. ... Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who has been inactive for three games with a fractured pinky, could return to practice this week.