LATROBE, Pa. – Jarvis Jones' sack of Eli Manning offered statistical evidence that the second-year outside linebacker is on the come.
The rest of what Jones put on video in the Steelers' 20-16, preseason-opening loss to the New York Football Giants on Saturday night provided more such confirmation.
"He did better than he did last year," linebackers coach Keith Butler assessed today at Saint Vincent College. "He's progressing the way we want him to progress. It's been better for us this year for him."
What remains to be seen is whether an improved Jones is in a position to give the Steelers what they'll need from him this season.
"He'd better be," Butler said.
For Jones and for any young defensive player, in Butler's estimation, achieving an appreciation of scheme and teammates is often a critical step in the transition from potential to production.
"The thing that gets you beat defensively is mental mistakes," Butler said. "Somebody makes a mental mistake here, a mental mistake there, and then they add up on you and it ends up in too many big plays. The thing we have to try to eliminate at the linebacker position is any type of mental mistake."
Eliminate those, Butler maintained, and "everything else will pan out.
"What happens is everybody in the media says, 'You're not a splash player. You're not making splash plays.' What the heck is a splash play? It's the play that you should make within the framework of the defense.
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steeler's 12th day of Training Camp.
"So everybody starts trying to push and do things outside the framework of the defense and they screw the whole freakin' defense up instead of just doing their job. When they start learning to trust the guy next to them to do his job and the guy on the other side who is doing his job and I do my job and I understand all that, then I make plays come to me. And if they don't you should be patient enough for them to come to you because sooner or later they will.
"They're all in the process of learning that."
Jones, Butler said, is developing at a pace similar to Lawrence Timmons after the Steelers made him their first round pick in 2007.
"He's about at the stage where we thought he'd be," Butler said of Jones. "This system is a hard thing to learn, but I've always said this to all my guys, 'I wish I played in this system.' Once you learn this system, to me, there's not a better or a more fun system to play in.
"You can be aggressive and you can blitz and you can change up the things that you're doing. There are a lot of different things that you can do and put pressure on offenses. But in order to do that you got to get them in situations that you can control.
"And if we're giving up big runs all the time, we're not going to get in that situation. If we eliminate that we can get up on people then we can cause turnovers, we can get sacks and do the things we need to do to win."