So Far, Jones In Line With Greats

Jarvis Jones (Gojkovich/Getty Images)

In the Sunday Notebook, Dick LeBeau doesn't want to crush Jarvis Jones with lofty expectations, but so far so good. And Brandon Marshall is more than a beast.

The great ones didn't start for the Pittsburgh Steelers this early in their careers.

But Jarvis Jones started for the reigning No. 1 defense in his second week at the hallowed position of blind-side outside linebacker.

Here's how the rest of the greats broke in:

* Greg Lloyd, a sixth-round pick, suffered a knee injury the second day of his rookie training camp and missed the entire 1987 season.

Lloyd underwent more knee surgery the following year and wasn't active until Oct. 23, 1988. His first start came three weeks later as the Steelers quickly got over the holdout of Mike Merriweather, moved Aaron Jones back inside, and released Anthony Henton to make way for Lloyd, who became the clear-cut leader of the great "Blitzburgh" defense of the 1990s.

* Joey Porter sat behind Carlos Emmons as a rookie third-rounder in 1999, but received significant playing time in the finale, when he strip-sacked Neil O'Donnell and returned the fumble 46 yards for a touchdown.

Porter started the 2000 opener and went the distance for 10.5 sacks as he and Jason Gildon became the first double-digit sack duo since Lloyd and Kevin Greene in 1994.

* James Harrison, of course, was cut three times in his first two seasons as an undrafted free agent. He got his first start in Cleveland in 2004, thanks to Porter's pre-game ejection, and got his first sack. He spot-started for Clark Haggans four times in the next two seasons, but was primarily a special-teams demon until 2007, when Mike Tomlin arrived and the Steelers released Porter to make way for Harrison.

None of those three players came to Pittsburgh with the first-round pedigree of Jones, and none of them started nearly as quickly. So it appears that Jones has the makings of those great pass-rushers.

"I hate to saddle a young guy with such lofty expectations," said Dick LeBeau, the defensive coordinator for all four players.

"We don't usually play young guys this early unless we like them, and I like him. Obviously we all like him or we wouldn't have drafted him first. He has what they call a great 'skill set.' He's strong, developing his technique, and has a great burst to the quarterback. You see that. He also has a great work ethic. So I'm excited about his future."

Does Jones -- or "J.J." as the coaches call him -- have what LeBeau has seen in the former greats?

"I think he's equal to those guys at this stage in his career," LeBeau said. "But I don't want to put that on him. Let's see how he develops."

BRANDON THE BEAST

Brandon Marshall was born in Pittsburgh and returns to play in Heinz Field for the first time in his 8-year career tonight as Jay Cutler's primary target.

A 6-4 1/2, 230-pound wide receiver, Marshall caught 118 passes for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. He was second in the league in receptions by four to Calvin Johnson.

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has covered Marshall man-to-man three previous times and says Marshall is more than a beast.

"He a monster," said Taylor. "You watch him on tape push corners, safeties down, fixing his gloves while he's running, catch the ball. I had never seen that. I never seen a guy throw a corner, fix his gloves, and go catch the ball."

This season?

"Yeah," Taylor said. "So, you've got a guy who can do all three on one play. Who else thinking about that? He is."

Marshall went against Taylor in 2010 (5 for 57) in Miami, and in 2009 (11-112) and 2007 (6-77) in Denver. Marshall did not play in Denver's 2006 trip to Pittsburgh.

Marshall was targeted on 40 percent of the Bears' pass attempts last season, but he's caught 15 passes for 217 yards on a 28 percent target rate this season. It's the reason

Steelers safety Ryan Clark said "shutting down" Marshall isn't necessarily the key to stopping the Bears' offense.

"We can't let him go crazy," Clark said. "And I think 'shutting down' is a relative term. You've got to think about it in so many different ways. If he has no catches, that's good. But if Matt Forte rushes for 150 yards and Martellus Bennett catches 2 touchdowns, then there's still a high possibility we could lose the game. I think Brandon Marshall is part of the keys to success; just not necessarily a big key."

Does a homecoming mean anything to Marshall?

"No, he's pretty level-headed," said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. "He knows that this game is important, just like last week, and I don't think he's going to put this one above any other game. He just might have a few ticket requests."

INJURY REPORT

Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) will miss his second game, although the Steelers' quarters package, with a fourth safety playing the slot in place of Allen, performed well against a similar offense last Monday night in Cincinnati.

The Bears could be without their star cornerback Charles Tillman, who's questionable after missing a couple of practices this week with a knee injury. Tillman was limited in Friday's practice.

The corner opposite Taylor when both played at Lousiana-Lafayette, Tillman is riding a streak of 50 consecutive starts. He has 35 career interceptions and has been named to the last two Pro Bowls. He would be replaced by Zack Bowman, a six-year vet with 16 career starts.

QUOTABLE

Cutler on the Bears' 3-point win over Cincinnati and 1-point win over Minnesota:

"Yeah there were some close games. Lance Briggs said it a couple days ago that we could easily be 0-2 and we could be sitting in the same position Pittsburgh is. We've had a few things go our way, a few fourth-quarter plays went our way. We're obviously happy to be 2-0 but we realize there is a lot of work ahead of us."

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