- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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It came in a game that didn’t count, but I’m thinking that Jarvis Jones' sack of Eli Manning in the first quarter had to be a nice confidence booster for the second-year outside linebacker. Jones, who managed just one sack in 2013 despite starting eight games, made a nice outside fake on left tackle Charles Brown and shot inside. Jones had such a clear path to the quarterback that he nearly overran the play, but he was able to trip up Manning for an 8-yard loss. It’s only August, but the Steelers would love nothing more than for Jones, their 2013 first-round pick, to build up his confidence by consistently pressuring the quarterback in preseason games.
Vince Williams continues to hit anything that moves. The second-year linebacker racked up five tackles, third on the Steelers, and he appears to be playing faster after starting 11 games as a rookie last season. There is no doubt the Florida State product is playing with more of an edge after getting supplanted in the starting lineup by rookie Ryan Shazier and taking umbrage to the notion that he is only a two-down linebacker. Williams’ improvement and the return of Sean Spence make inside linebacker the deepest position on the team. A really, really tough cut is looming at linebacker with second-year man Terence Garvin and rookie Jordan Zumwalt also in the mix inside.
Tauren Poole helped himself even though he only rushed for 17 yards on five carries. Poole stood out on the punt coverage team, recording a tackle and forcing the first turnover of the game. Outside linebacker Howard Jones recovered a fumble by Giants punt returner Charles James II, but Poole caused the muffed catch by getting down the field and putting pressure on James. Poole also had the presence of mind to slap the loose ball forward, allowing Jones to pounce on it. Poole has established himself as the early leader for the job of No. 4 running back if the Steelers keep that many at the position. Whoever wins that spot will have to be able to contribute on special teams, and Jordan Hall is another one to watch at running back after he played extensively against the Giants.
Landry Jones averaged less than four yards per pass attempt, but he showed something with the way he hung in despite getting battered by the Giants’ pass rush and also giving the Steelers a chance to win the game at the end. Jones completed 4 of 8 passes for 41 yards in moving the Steelers from their own 20-yard line into Giants territory late in the fourth quarter. One of those incompletions came on a pass over the middle that Derek Moye could have caught had he located the ball earlier. Jones’ final completion of the game was a 14-yard strike to Martavis Bryant that would have really put the Steelers on the move had the rookie wide receiver not lost a fumble after getting up and trying to run after the catch. Jones completed 11 of 21 passes for only 74 yards, but he played better than his statistical line reflects.