Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jarvis Jones To Help Steelers Renew Monday Night Rivalry With Bengals

It was nearly 43 years ago on November 2, 1970 when the Monday Night rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers began. It was the first ever contest between the two teams on what would arguably become the NFL's second-biggest stage. 

The Steelers won the seventh-ever Monday Night Football game 21-10. 

The stars of the game were Dick Hoak, long-time Steelers running back and running backs coach, and quarterback Terry Hanratty. There was another Terry also, though, who made his Monday Night debut as rookie Terry Bradshaw went 4-12 for 40 yards. Bradshaw would go on to usurp the reins from Hanratty en route to a Hall of Fame career. 

Fast forward to this coming Monday and not only is the rivalry renewed, but another budding young star will see his time on stage. The nation's eyes will be focused on the increased snaps, and possibly even the start of rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones

The first-round draft pick was expected to learn the position, as played by the Steelers in their 3-4 defense coached by Dick LeBeau, behind the heir apparent Jason Worilds. As If It Ain't Steel wrote and as was generally well known, no rookie (especially no rookie linebacker) had ever started in a LeBeau-coached defense. Without going deeply into it, the complexity of the schemes dictated that it wouldn't happen. 

That may change come Monday night. 

"That's the way it is right now," Jones said Wednesday after practice where he confirmed he ran with the first-team defense after being promoted to co-starter. "As long as I continue to keep doing what I'm doing, I hope it stays like that."

Technically, LeBeau's record is still intact. Jason Worilds started the Titans' game and played the majority of the snaps, approximately 46 to Jones' 28 snaps. But, not only has Worilds done his best to move the middle of the class, Jones has done that rare thing of living up to the hype that surrounded him. 

Maybe we will still see both men on more even rotation Monday and for weeks to come. The way things look at present, though, is that Jones' machinations are radioactive whereas Worlids may have reached his half-life.

Each man had sights, starting in Training Camp, of taking over as the heir apparent for former Steelers linebacker, Defensive Player of the Year and enforcer James Harrison. A man they will see when the Bengals are on defense Monday night. 

Make no mistake, Worilds was never going to make people forget Harrison, but he at least had a chance to be a serviceable run stopper and rusher. Still, it was his job to lose.

He likely has. 

The hard-hitting turnover machine that is Jones is becoming the anti-Harrison. Where Harrison was the Silverback - so powerful and disruptive, Jones is the Black Panther - so sleek and sudden. Where Harrison was the massive Deebo from the movie Friday, Jones is stout but more angular Dillon from Predator. 

And maybe with the long dreadlocks, "the Predator" is an apt nickname. Maybe we'll also see him completely usurp the reins from Worilds en route to his own Hall of Fame career. Maybe this will begin where it all began 43 years ago - on Monday night. 

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TIDBITS: Steelers practice report - DNP: Cortez Allen (ankle), Le'Veon Bell (foot) and Curtis Brown (illness).
LIMITED: Steve McLendon (hamstring), Heath Miller (knee) and Shaun Suisham (hamstring/plant leg). 

Neither Le'Veon Bell nor Heath Miller will play this week. Won't return until at least the Vikings' game in London. 

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"I think a consistent running game is really important, not only to be good offensively, but to strike a balance." - Mike Tomlin

Jonathan Dwyer says the release and return changed him. He's more focused. "I definitely have a chip on my shoulder." He was told to be ready to play in whatever capacity, and ran w/ #Steelers 1st team today. Issac Redman said Dwyer's release-return "is going to help him tremendously. You'll see that chip."

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Per Capologist Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone on Twitter), whom you've known us to quote many times, the "2013 adjusted {Salary} Cap for Steelers is $124,899,811, with them being $1,385,253 under the Cap. I have them with 40 players signed at about $127.2M (for the 2014 season)." (brackets ours)

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Matt Spaeth has been without crutches since Saturday and is walking freely with boot.