Former Shepherd player Jones back in Steelers camp
Some people might say that former Shepherd defensive end/linebacker Howard Jones is back on the bubble.
In reality, Jones never left that same bubble. From the time the undrafted free agent arrived in Pittsburgh’s summer training camp in Latrobe in 2014 he has been on the most endangered of bubbles.
Jones was asked to change positions when he arrived. He had been a defensive end with the Rams. He agility and athleticism gave the Steelers a chance to move him to outside linebacker, where age and injuries had made that position one of potential weakness for the team.
If Jones could show a willingness and a strong work ethic to learn the position, his status as an undrafted player would mean nothing. Pro football teams don’t care if a player is undrafted, came from a nonscholarship Division III school or came from another sport . . . as long as he can play.
The odds against Jones making the 53-player regular season roster were long.
But if he showed the needed potential to be a useful player in the future, Pittsburgh might keep him on the practice squad.
After scoring a touchdown with a fumble recovery in a preseason game against the New York Giants, Jones was kept for the practice squad. And that’s where he remained through the entire 2014 season.
Now it’s back to Latrobe for the 2015 summer preparations for another regular season.
Jones is still considered a long shot to make the 53-player regular season roster.
He is listed behind other linebackers on the team’s depth chart. Acquisitions could be made by the Steelers as other teams release and cut players near the league deadline for such moves. Even a seldom-seen trade could be made for another outside linebacker.
Should Jones be impressive enough on special teams, he could find his niche for the upcoming season.
Now 25 years old, Jones needs to continue to give the Steelers confidence in his ability to learn the position and the confidence that he has the skills to one day be able to make a difference.
If not, the Steelers will place other younger players on their special teams . . . and on their 2015 practice squad.
The Steelers have little or no room for error. They won eight games last year. And eight winning games are not enough to guarantee anything in the NFL.
Jones has been evaluated by all the other teams in the league. All of them are constantly trying to improve the quality of their personnel. If he has made a positive impression on another general manager, his scouts or even a head coach, Jones could be saved from NFL extinction by that team.
But as long as he is in Pittsburgh and stays healthy, Jones will be given constant evaluation by the Steeler staff as to whether he should be given more pro football education . . . and possibly more playing time.