PITTSBURGH — Iron sharpens iron. That saying, biblical in origin, has become a near-cliche in the sporting world.
The full quote comes from the Book of Proverbs, passage 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Without delving deeply into the specifics of biblical metallurgy, one type of harder, more abrasive iron is used to hone and create a useful tool surface on a softer piece of iron.
New Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Broderick Jones used the phrase during his introductory press conference on Friday to describe his process when arriving as a young players at the University of Georgia.
Jones was a star player for Lithonia (Ga.) High School, and was rated as the No. 2 tackle in the country, No. 3 player from Georgia and No. 11 player overall in the country by 24/7 Sports composite rating while coming out of high school.
Only a half-dozen teams tried offer Jones a scholarship, among them Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee. He was destined to play big-time college football and likely destined for success, just based on his natural athletic ability.
But that doesn’t mean that his path through Georgia was easy. He recounted his first experience during his freshman training camp at Georgia in 2020.
“When I first went in, there’s this thing they call a Dawg drill — basically one-on-ones,” Jones said. “I had to go against six people that all went first round as a freshman coming in and lost every single rep.”
On that Georgia defense was Travon Walker (No. 1 overall, 2022), Jalen Carter (No. 9 overall, 2023), Jordan Davis (No. 13 overall, 2022), Quay Walker (No. 22 overall, 2022) Jermaine Johnson II (No. 26 overall, 2022), Devonte Wyatt (No. 28 overall, 2022) and Nolan Smith (No. 30 overall, 2023).
For good measure, there was also second-rounder Azeez Ojulari and third-rounders Monty Rice, Nakobe Dean and Channing Tindall.
Talk about some harder, more-abrasive iron. But that doesn’t mean Jones was OK coming out of his set of camp drills 0 for 6.
“Man, I’m still feeling that to this day,” he said.
It was on that crucible that Jones was forged from a talented, but raw prospect into one of the top tackles in college football.
“It humbled me, but I just continued to work, continued to better myself,” Jones said. “Going versus as many people as I can remember, Travon, Azeez, Jermaine Johnson, Adam Anderson, Nolan Smith, you have no choice but to get better going against that many first rounders because that’s what it is. It’s iron sharpening iron every day.”
It was a process that went well beyond that first day. As a freshman in 2020, Jones played just 25 snaps of offense. In 2021, he played sparingly until late-season injuries thrust him into the spotlight. He played 40 snaps in Georgia’s National Championship victory over Alabama, a performance on the biggest stage that springboard him to his NFL future.
“I knew it was going to be tough going in as a freshman, but I wanted to be a part of the building process,” Jones said. “Georgia was on the uprise, so I just wanted to be able to be a part of something bigger than me. I feel like Georgia was the best fit for me. They had coaches that were able to help me improve my game, on and off the field. So, I just felt like that was the best fit. I didn’t feel like that anywhere else I visited. I just decided to stick it out and it worked out for the best.”
With that championship experience under his belt, Jones turned his sights on the NFL ahead of his junior season, and getting to start for the first time, he showed the mettle that had been developed in the competition of Georgia camps and practices.
In 930 snaps of left tackle in 2022, Jones allowed no sacks and just nine pressures as the Bulldogs rolled to a second straight title. He knew he was ready for the next step.
“I just felt like my job was finished at the University of Georgia: two national championships, SEC championship, All-SEC,” Jones said. “I felt like I did all I could there. I felt like there was nothing left for me to do there. So, it was time for me to move on to bigger and better things.”
And that means starting that process all over again in a few months when the Steelers meet on the practice fields of St. Vincent College for training camp. Instead of Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, it will be Cam, Heyward, Alex Highsmith, Larry Ogunjobi and T.J. Watt — another group that could be described as hardened and abrasive.
Jones is looking forward to the challenge. Iron sharpens iron.