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The Pittsburgh Steelers' interest in Jason Jones has folks interest in the front four again

SCI publisher Jim Wexell with a notes column inspired by a tall, fast tight end, a true defensive end and college football's version of Hugh Green.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who truly feels empathy for the safeties who already have to play a step back with Martavis Bryant drug-free and on the football field:

* And now you want to throw a tight end out there who's taller and faster -- much faster -- that the great Heath Miller?

* Just doesn't seem fair, does it?

* Hey, coach, are we still putting two on Antonio Brown?

* And, hey, Coach, they just put Le'Veon Bell in the slot. Do we have anyone for that?

* Coach? Can you hear me, Coach?

* Yes, this will be something to watch. But Pittsburgh Steelers fans must finish their Lenten season strong, for good health has to be the prayer, for those who do.

* There are a couple of safeties still out there in the free-agent market. And a couple of cornerbacks. And a couple of nose tackles. But the news from ESPN's Jeremy Fowler is that the Steelers' next target in free agency might be Jason Jones, the 4-3 defensive end from Detroit.

* We all remember Jason. Heck, it wouldn't be the middle of March without the Steelers kicking that tire.

* I remember d-line coach John Mitchell liking Jones coming out of Eastern Michigan in 2008. The Tennessee Titans drafted him in the second round (one pick after Limas) and started him as a rookie against the Steelers. Jones tore them up with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in the Steelers' last loss that season.

* In the 2009 opener, Jones sacked Ben Roethlisberger for a 19-yard loss on third-and-2, had another tackle-for-loss, broke up a pass and pressured Roethlisberger on another play.

* In 2010, Jones tackled Rashard Mendenhall twice behind the line of scrimmage for seven yards in losses, and in 2011, starting against the Steelers as an end, Jones made three tackles.

* Before that game, Mike Tomlin called Jones "problematic for us, getting him blocked. He’s a very good pass rusher."

* Naturally the Steelers chased Jones when he came out in free agency in 2012, but Jones signed with Seattle.

* The Steelers in the past have viewed Jones as a 5-tech, but Jones signed with Detroit as a free agent in 2013 and has been a 4-3 end ever since. Even though he's started 31 games with 9.5 sacks the last two seasons, Jones hasn't faced the Steelers since 2011.

* Now that the Steelers are playing a 4-man front 70 percent of the time, perhaps it's not too late to finally get Mitch's man. Jones turns 30 in May.

* Speaking of getting Mitch his man, I'm still hoping that DT Jarran Reed of Alabama is on the Steelers' radar. Yes, on Alabama tape Reed looks like a classic 4-3 nose tackle, and I don't get the sense the Steelers are looking in that direction anymore. But Reed showed in the Senior Bowl that he can get after the quarterback when freed from scheme restriction.

* Just thought I'd throw that out there again for Mitch, the Alabama legend who hasn't had one of his own to coach in Pittsburgh.

* We wouldn't call Reed "Mitch's man," though. More like "Mitch's son."

* A versatile defensive lineman who also interests me in the early rounds is Jonathan Bullard of Florida. Bullard could rotate with Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward at tackle, of course, and, like Jones, could move out to 4-3 end whenever the Steelers decide they really don't need one of their ends dropping into coverage. Like the plan with James Harrison, if he does decide to return for one final season.

* Bullard actually did some dropping at the combine, but he was such an explosive, playmaking big man going forward at Florida. His size, at 6-3, 285, doesn't excite anyone, and barely getting under 5.0 (4.93) in the 40 might not put him prominently on many radars. I love his get-off, and his 10 time (1.65) supports that. So do his 6.5 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss last year as an interior lineman in the SEC.

* Might as well finish my run on front-four personnel while I'm at it. I'm sure you know where I stand on the secondary: I would prefer a cornerback in the first round and a safety in the second. And I will have no problem whatsoever if that first-round cornerback is Mackensie Alexander. These facts are indisputable and understood. Tomlin and Kevin Colbert meeting with the Clemson cornerback the other night only lends support to this.

* But what if one of those Clemson pass-rushers falls to them? I've written that Kevin Dodd is the Ricky Jackson to Shaq Lawson's Hugh Green at Clemson, and I hope that every Pitt fan who remembers those superstars as senior bookends in 1980 understands what I mean by that.

* Jackson was the more underrated, as Dodd is. I should probably say Dodd WAS considered more underrated because he's rising on media draft boards at a rapid clip. Even former scout Daniel Jeremiah has Dodd ranked ahead of Lawson right now.

* And that brings me to my interest, because if you're going to give me Hugh Green, I'm going to take him, whether I need a cornerback, safety or whatever. Lawson is only 6-2 5/8, 269, but I say fine, let those stats slow down the interest. Let him fall to No. 25.

* Lawson's get-off is better than the 6-5, 277-pound Dodd's, both on tape and in the 10 (1.64 to 1.70). Lawson had 12.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles-for-loss last season, a season that ended with him playing on a sprained MCL. Perhaps it's that last impression of the slowed Lawson that's moving Dodd up the board, but give me Lawson in a heartbeat.

* I'll no doubt get back to reality and the future Steelers secondary in my next edition. It's just that the Steelers' interest in Jason Jones has me a bit excited on this Friday morning. It's not so much the player, but what the interest in him signifies in the brass' thinking.


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