Sunday, August 25, 2013
Jones has a short time to impress Steelers
By Scott Brown
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ backfield has been depleted by a spate of injuries, but Felix Jones didn’t arrive with the mind-set that he is just a much-needed body.
“I still think I’ve got it,” Jones said.
The former first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys will have roughly four days to prove that to the Steelers.
Felix Jones has just four days to show the Steelers he's worth a spot on the final roster.
Jones is spending Sunday as if he is cramming for a test -- in this case, learning the Steelers’ playbook as quickly as possible. The sixth-year veteran will practice Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is a walk-through, and then the Steelers play their final preseason game Thursday night at Carolina.
After that, it will be up to coach Mike Tomlin and his staff to determine whether Jones can help the running game while rookie Le’Veon Bell recovers from a mid-foot sprain and is worth keeping on the 53-man roster, which must be set by 6 p.m. Saturday.
Jones was acquired from Philadelphia last Friday, and the next night he made a positive first impression in a 26-20 overtime loss to Kansas City as he led the team in rushing (29 yards on eight carries) despite a limited grasp of the Steelers’ playbook.
“I’ve got to learn the playbook and go out there and show them this week,” Jones said Saturday. “Just trying to make the best of it and have fun.”
With so much uncertainty in the Steelers’ backfield -- Isaac Redman (stinger) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) each missed their second consecutive game -- there is certainly an opportunity for Jones.
Jones' speed is a positive as he pushes for a roster spot. So it too is his versatility. Jones can return kickoffs, and is also a capable receiver; the 5-foot-10, 215-pounder caught a career-high 48 passes in 2010 with the Cowboys, his best season as a professional.
Jones is also only 26, which is why he looks at his trade to Pittsburgh as a fresh start.
“These guys made me feel welcome as soon as I walked in the door,” Jones said. “I was just excited to be here and wearing black and yellow.”
The welcoming committee presumably included Jonathan Dwyer even though the fourth-year veteran may stand to lose the most with the addition of Jones.
Injuries have provided Dwyer an opportunity to make the starting job his, if only until Bell returns and is ready to take over as the Steelers’ feature back. Dwyer shined in the Steelers’ second preseason game at Washington, and he did some good things against Kansas City while playing almost the entire first half -- catching a touchdown pass as an outlet receiver, and grinding for 25 yards on eight carries even though the former sixth-round pick didn’t have a lot of running room. He still lacks consistency as a blocker picking up blitzes, but he seems to have made improvement in that part of his game.
Dwyer, who hopes to further his case by playing Thursday night in Carolina, said he did not read anything into the Steelers trading for Jones.
“All I need to do is keep doing my job,” the 5-11, 229-pounder said. “If that’s what’s best for the team, that’s what’s best for the team. I’m just going to keep my head down and do my job.”