Steelers hoping expected return of Jarvis Jones boosts struggling pass rush



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PITTSBURGH — James Harrison could be out, but Jarvis Jones should be back in for the Pittsburgh Steelers this week against Cincinnati.

Jones, the club's top pick last year, expects to be activated for the first time since fracturing his right wrist Sept. 21 at Carolina. Harrison -- who re-signed with the Steelers after Jones was injured — did not practice all week due to a knee injury and is listed as doubtful.

"I feel like I'll be playing," Jones said Friday. "I've been practicing, so I'm just going to keep that frame of mind like I'm playing. I can't control that. The head man's going to make that call. But I'm just going to continue to prepare like I am playing."

The Steelers probably won't officially activate Jones until Saturday, in case something unforeseen happens during their walk-through that morning, but all indications are that he will get snaps in the base defense.

"If he's got a hat, he'll definitely play," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "I think there's a good chance of that right now."

Jones' return could boost an ailing Steelers pass rush that has produced just 21 sacks and 84 quarterback pressures. They are on pace to register 28 sacks, the franchise's lowest total since it had just 19 in 1988.

The 17th overall pick in the 2013 draft appeared to be in the midst of a breakout season early on. He collected two sacks in just 10 quarters before injuring his wrist while sacking Carolina's Cam Newton. Despite the lengthy absence, Jones is just 2 1/2 sacks behind team-leader Jason Worilds. Veteran Arthur Moats, the other outside linebacker, has just two in 12 games. Harrison has four and end Brett Keisel, who was placed on injured reserve this week, had one sack and was among the team-leaders with 12 pressures.

"I've just got to come in and hopefully make plays," Jones said. "That's all I'm worrying about, doing what I can do, within the defense and just playing hard and giving everything I've got. I haven't played in a while, so I just want to bring my energy and make plays.'"

Jones will play with a protective cast, which he said "got smaller all week." And there was no pain in the wrist, so "that's a great sign for me," he added. Even if Harrison can play, he might be limited. So, Jones needs to hit the ground running against the Bengals. But could he play a lot.

"I feel like I'm ready, and I'm capable of doing it," Jones said. "But we've got a great rotation with Worilds and Moats as well, so I just have to come in and do what I've got to do. No matter what."

Notes: Marcus Gilbert is out with an ankle injury, so Mike Adams will start at right offensive tackle. . Nose tackle Steve McLendon (right shoulder) is questionable, so Cam Thomas likely will move to his spot and rookie second-round pick Stephon Tuitt will start at right end. . Rookie Dan McCullers also will play more at nose tackle. . CB Cortez Allen (thumb), CB Brice McCain (hamstring), CB Ike Taylor (shoulder), ILB Ryan Shazier (ankle) and SS Troy Polamalu (illness) are probable. . QB Ben Roethlisberger and TE Heath Miller missed Wednesday's practice (not injury related), but worked the past two days and also were listed as probable.


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