If you were wondering how Ross Ventrone made it on to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad despite the team already carrying five other safeties on the 53-man roster, and 12 other defensive backs in total, the following plays will show you why.
Put quite simply, he showed in the team’s final preseason game that he could, if afforded an opportunity, be a great asset on special teams.
His play on both special teams and defense had been solid throughout the preseason, but with a bigger stage and longer audition at his disposal, he really shined in his performance covering punts against the Carolina Panthers.
Late in the first quarter, The Steelers were receiving a punt, with Ventrone serving as a vice jammer with Derek Moye. The pair was on the far side of the play, with Ventrone on the outside of the gunner. He ran the gunner down from a trail position to get in front of him and block him out of the play.
At the tail end of the first half, Brad Wing was set to punt for about the 20th or so time of the game with Ventrone as the nearside gunner against one jammer. Ventrone was the first one down the field, forcing a fair catch at the six-yard line.
Early in the third quarter, Ventrone did the same thing with Wing punting in Panthers territory from the 41-yard line. He put a move on the jammer to beat him inside and was the first one down the field to force a fair catch at the 10.
The fourth quarter, however, is where Ventrone really started to draw attention to himself, after the returners started fielding the ball. Once again the nearside gunner, the Panthers employed vice jammers sensing an opportunity to get off a good return.
Wing punted the ball 46 yards as the jammers forced Ventrone out of bounds, but he split the pair as he reentered the playing field and hit the returner as he was funneled Ventrone’s way by pressure from Isaiah Green. Ventrone made the tackle after a three-yard return for a net punt of 43 yards.
With the Steelers backed up to their own 13-yard line, the Panthers again used pairs to jam Pittsburgh’s gunners. Ventrone simply beat both of them and won the footrace down the field, tackling the returner on the spot of the catch and knocking him back two yards, resulting in a net punt of 47 yards.