While other NFL teams were busy signing picks in the days after the NFL Draft, the Steelersdidn't ink their first player until May 16. And now that June 1 has come and gone and freed up $5.5 million in cap space, Pittsburgh has come to terms with its top two selections, the team announced.
Jones played three seasons, the last two at Georgia, and had 28 career sacks, including 14 1/2 last season. He had 24 1/2 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles in 2012, making him one of the most dynamic defenders in the country.
But a poor pro day that included a 4.90 40 time, as well as a spinal stenosis issue that led to Jones transferring to Georgia from Southern California, also played a part in him falling to the second half of the first round. The Steelers, having released James Harrisonearlier this offseason, were ecstatic to see Jones still on the board.
"When he ran the 4.9, we were happy," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said shortly after the team drafted the linebacker. "We knew we had a chance. We didn't even talk to Jarvis at the combine because we didn't think we had a chance. This kid, when you watch him play, I don't care what he runs. He's a football player in every phase of the game, and that's what was really exciting."
Colbert also called Jones a "special player," adding: "He's a solid kid, a great player. He was dominant at a major college. He plays the run, chases the ball and, most important, he gets after the passer. It's really just a great honor to have this kid join our team."
Bell, meanwhile, immediately upgrades the Steelers' running game, which was ineffective for much of last season. Bell, who played at Michigan State, was the Big Ten rushing leader last season, gaining 1,793 yards. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley considers him a three-down player.
"This is a big guy that can play like a big back, and yet also can get outside some and catch the ball," Haley said shortly after Bell was drafted.
The Steelers are moving to a new blocking scheme -- the outside zone -- under new O-line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. and the hope is that it opens up holes for whomever gets the ball, whether it's Bell or veterans Jonathan Dwyer or Isaac Redman.
From the perspective of June, this much is certain: For the first time in a long time, the Steelers will head into the season relying heavily on their rookies.