MIRZA ZUKIC: Steelers need to protect future
October 20, 2013 1:50 AM
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It’s Baltimore week in Pittsburgh, and Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t be more excited.

After missing both games against the Ravens last season with injuries, the Steelers’ quarterback is back and ready to take part in one of the NFL’s best rivalries once again. And he doesn’t care how much it hurts.

“I enjoy this rivalry,” he said Wednesday. “I know it sounds crazy, but I enjoy two of the best teams going at it. I don’t know if it was as painful as if I would’ve played, but it was painful to sit out.”

Although Roethlisberger will be back, the Steelers will be missing a lengthy and growing list of other injured players. Chief among them this week is likely to be rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was diagnosed with a concussion days after playing in last week’s 19-6 win in New York.

In the short-term picture, that’s bad news for a Steelers team that needs every advantage it can get to turn around its season. But in the long term, keeping Jones out of action today is the smartest decision. Drafting Jones was a long-term investment, and the Steelers need to protect the future, especially considering where this season is headed.

Jones will be missed, there’s no doubt about it.

Although he hasn’t turned out to be the ball hawk he was touted to be coming out of college, Jones has been disruptive and capable of applying quarterback pressure. His pressure on Jets’ quarterback Geno Smith last week directly led to Lawrence Timmons’ interception in the red zone.

Even though he’s just a rookie, Jones has clearly become an integral part of Pittsburgh’s defense. Mike Tomlin has given up on trying to keep him on a short leash, having started Jones ahead of incumbent Jason Worilds the past four games.

All that stands, but it’s not a good enough reason to risk Jones’ future.

Jones admitted this week he didn’t know when he suffered the concussion. Neither did the coaches. Jones said they “identified” a handful of plays on which it could have happened, but nobody was sure.

Jones didn’t even have an inkling that he might have been concussed until Monday morning, when he woke up with a headache. What if he suffered his concussion early in last week’s game and played the entire rest of the game with it, jarring his brain on every hit and causing further damage? Everybody is different when it comes to head injuries, and playing Jones a week after a concussion is an unwarranted risk.

Jones tried to convince every reporter gathered at his locker this week that he was fine and that he wanted to play today.

“Completely fine now,” he said after Wednesday’s practice, sounding very much as if he was planning to play. “Just trying to prep myself for this week, for this big game on Sunday.”

Jones wants to play badly. That’s good. He’s got a competitive side. But even if he’s cleared for today’s game, Jones will sit if he’s smart. It’s an investment for his future and the Steelers’.

He won’t save the season by playing today.

Mirza Zukic is in his third season covering the Steelers for The Indiana Gazette. Email: moz@indianagazette.net. Twitter: @MirzaZuka.


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