With the offseason in full swing, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with quite a few choices to make as they get to work on building a Super Bowl team for 2017. While the return of Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell has been assured, Kevin Colbert must now focus on the tough decisions ahead in order to fill out a roster that can support it’s superstars. The popular choices aren’t always the right ones, and the right choices are hard to make if they are clouded with emotions. For the last 17 years Colbert has avoided making emotional decisions which has resulted in two Lombardi Trophies in three trips to the big dance, which is reason enough to trust that he knows what he is doing. From a fan’s perspective, it’s never easy saying goodbye to popular players such as DeAngelo Williams, which is a very real possibility. What’s even harder to accept, is the return of unpopular players, despite how logical the reasons for it may be, and there are three players fit this description, Jarvis Jones, Landry Jones, and Markus Wheaton, who should all be brought back for next season.
Why Markus Wheaton should return
In his four years with the Steelers, Markus Wheaton has only seen significant playing time during two of them, his second and third seasons. During his rookie year, Wheaton appeared in 12 games, but was hampered by a couple of broken fingers, and was limited to 6 receptions. In his fourth season, he was placed on injured reserve after only two starts and 4 receptions. What best sums up the reason why Markus Wheaton should remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is what he did during the 2014-2015 seasons. As the third receiver during those two years, Wheaton performed better than many other number two receivers throughout the league, hauling in 97 passes for 1,393 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Markus Wheaton has mainly been used by the Steelers as a possession receiver out of the slot, but is explosive enough to go deep, as he did often against the Seattle Seahawks on 11/29/2015. Against one of the best secondaries in the NFL, Wheaton torched them for 201 yards on 9 receptions, including a 69 yard touchdown. He had 5 catches for 103 yards in the first half alone. Instead of letting Wheaton walk via free agency, as is the speculation, it would seem to make more sense to part ways with Darius Heyward-Bey. Wheaton is almost as effective on special teams and brings much more to the offense than does DHB. Markus Wheaton will by no means break the bank and has good chemistry with Ben, and together with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, gives the Steelers the top trio of receivers in the NFL.
Why Jarvis Jones should return
Prior to last season, the Steelers decided that they were not going to exercise the option on the contract of linebacker Jarvis Jones. It’s hard to blame them for not doing so, but at the same time it’s not because Jones has been a bust, as some have labled him. After a lackluster rookie season, Jarvis got off to a quick start in his second season, which would be derailed by a dislocated wrist he suffered during his strip sack of Cam Newton, against the Carolina Panthers, leading to the return of James Harrison. Coming into the 2016 season, Jarvis Jones again won the starting job, but after 9 starts he was relagated to backup status in favor of Harrison, to help ignite a pass rush that was sluggish overall.
Jarvis Jones’ demotion after week 9 wasn’t entirely his doing, because the front seven as a whole was failing to generate much pressure. In his defense, Jones was asked to drop into coverage and to help stop the run, much more than he was asked to rush the quarterback. When he lined up to rush the quarterback he did a good job getting pressure and disrupting the play, and deflecting three passes behind the line, one of which ended in a Ryan Shazier interception. If there was a stat for assisted sacks, he would have four of those.
While Jarvis Jones hasn’t lived up to his first round draft status, he is still a very good football player who has gotten better each year. He still has the potential he entered the league with, and at worst will provide quality depth. Like Wheaton, Jarvis Jones is a known commodity who is still capable of winning the starting role. With most of the free agent outside linebackers on the market having performed at a level similar to or lower than Jones, a tradeoff with one of them makes no sense. He was the best OLB in the 2013 draft for a reason, and if he turns out to be a late bloomer just as he’s hitting his prime, Jarvis Jones will turn out to be a great bargain.
Why Landry Jones should return
In the years between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger, one of the most popular players on the team was the backup quarterback. In most cases, the only difference between the starter and the backup was that the starter had more experience at being a terrible quarterback. Behind Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones is probably the most talented quarterback in Pittsburgh since the “Blonde Bomber”. Many people will vehemently oppose that statement, but it doesn’t make it any less true. The point is, it is all about perspective. Compared to Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt or David Woodley, Landry Jones looks like an all-Pro, but compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Jones looks like your average backup.
Landry Jones is knowhere near as bad as he is made out to be, and it’s unfair to expect him to perform like Ben Roethlisberger, because Jones is what he is, which is a backup quarterback. Landry’s job of as a backup is to help keep the Steelers above water while Ben is out of the lineup, which is exactly what he has done. He’s completed 60 percent of his throws, and is a dropped pass away from being 3-1 as a starter. Jones has also come on in relief to help the Steelers win a couple of games. Kevin Colbert feels that Jones is better than 80 percent of the backups in the league, and since he is the one who basically decides whether Jones is brought back or not, he is probably the best judge of that.
There is no reason not to bring Landry Jones back. To make a change just for the sake of change makes no sense whatsoever either. Of the 20 percent of backups that are better than Landry Jones, which would be roughly 5, two want to be starters again (Tony Romo, Mike Glennon), two of them are too old (Matt Shaub, Josh McCown), and the other is the Broncos quarterback of the future (Paxton Lynch). It is possible that Landry Jones could leave for a starting job elsewhere, however that is pretty unlikely to happen because he is just a backup, one who just happens to be better than almost all the starters between Bradshaw and Ben, and one who is worth bringing back.