By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — While some were disappointed when Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds during his pro day workout, the Pittsburgh Steelers were ecstatic.
That enthusiasm reached a fever pitch late Thursday night when Jones was still available for the Steelers to select him with the 17th pick in the first round during the 2013 NFL Draft.
“He was one of the guys who we didn’t know if he’d make it (to No. 17), but we were hoping there was a chance,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “Jarvis didn’t work out at the Combine, and he worked out at his pro day. And when he ran the 4.9, we were happy, because we knew that we had a chance.
“We didn’t even talk to Jarvis at the Combine, because we didn’t think we had a chance. But when he ran the 4.9, the first thing I did was go to his agent to set up a visit (to Pittsburgh), because I knew that we had a chance. And he continued the workout, and it was off the charts impressive.
“And that just verified what we thought about him in college,” Colbert added. “When you watch him play, I don’t care what he runs. He’s a football player in every phase of the game. … The time wasn’t quite what others were looking for, but we were excited.”
Jones recorded 155 tackles with 91 solo stops in 26 games over two seasons at Georgia. He tallied 28 sacks during that time with 45.5 tackles behind the line and nine forced fumbles with 88 quarterback pressures. So, he knows how to rush the quarterback, which is something the Steelers coveted once they released veteran outside linebacker James Harrison.
“James Harrison is a beast, so I’ve got a lot of work to do to get to James Harrison,” Jones said. “The guy’s powerful. He has speed. (So), I’m trying to get on a level that he is, but I have a lot of work to do. … I love the way he plays. I think we both play relentless, and you can tell that we’re both passionate about this game by the way that we play. And we’re ball-hogs. We make plays when they need to be made.”
That ability certainly is what impressed Steelers coach Mike Tomlin the most.
“He played in a very similar scheme, and he was asked to do things in a manner that he will be asked to do things here in Pittsburgh,” Tomlin said. “So, there will be very little guesswork in that regard. (And) he excelled in what they asked him to do, and he’ll be asked to do similar things here. … He plays the game with a certain disposition that we value, (and) he’ll fit in great with our group.”
Jones won’t be penciled in as a starter opposite LaMarr Woodley just yet, but he’ll certainly compete with Jason Worilds for Harrison’s old spot. Jones sounded like he was up for the challenge.
“(Tomlin) told me how much he liked to watch me play and how much he liked my game and how I could come in right away and do what I’m supposed to do, to come in and play,” Jones said. “I know they needed outside linebackers, so I’m so happy to be part of this organization. I know they’ve got a great defense, and they’re known for their defense. That’s something they take pride in.
“And they’re passionate about it. So, I’m just so happy to be part of this organization. (Ike Taylor) is one of my best mentors. We train together, and we’ve talked about how great the (Steelers are) and what that defense means up there. It means a whole lot. They take pride in what they do. Everybody knows the Steel Curtain, (and) I’m just so happy to be part of it.”
The only issue with Jones was medical, but the player said that once he was cleared by doctors his congenital spinal stenosis was a non-issue. The Steelers obviously checked him out as well and readily agreed.
“The kid played two seasons without an issue at the University of Georgia,” Colbert said. “Of course, he had to go through a physical here, and we checked him out. But we’re certainly very comfortable with his medical status or we wouldn’t have made that pick.”
Colbert noted that Jones was among the 6-8 “special players” that he identified earlier in the week as the best players in the draft, but he did not specifically name anyone at that time.
The NFL Draft continues with the second and third round Friday beginning at 6:30 p.m. Teams can take up to seven minutes for a pick in the second round and five minutes each for selections in rounds 3-7.