Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sounded somewhat optimistic about second-year outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, saying that he liked the way the former first-round draft pick looked in practice last week, which some reporters also observed.
That suggests that we may have a roster move by the end of the week if the Steelers hope to activate Jones from the short-term injured reserve list, since they will have to make room for his spot on the roster, which was originally filled by James Harrison.
This, of course, raises two questions: who is the one to go, and what role might Jones see in his first game back, if he is indeed activated this week?
There are a few obvious choices for the answer to the first question, of course. Wide receiver Justin Brown has only seen action on special teams once over the last six games, and he was only active due to injury.
He is clearly on the bottom of the six-man wide receiver depth chart, and the Steelers already have a seventh on the practice squad in C.J. Goodwin. They could choose to move on with Goodwin, or they could add Brown to the practice squad if they choose to release him.
Two other positions with an abundance of players would be cornerback and safety, though with Cortez Allen currently sidelined with a thumb injury and Brice McCain recovering from a minor hamstring tweak, the Steelers might need B.W. Webb this week.
At safety, the team still has six, and those who do not start are all contributors on special teams, while Will Allen has rediscovered a role for himself on defense—if the Steelers choose to continue to use the quarters package that they showed against the Saints.
Ross Ventrone was the beneficiary of a rules change this season that extended the practice squad from eight players to 10, giving the Steelers the luxury to carry additional personnel, such as a 12th defensive back.
Since being called up from the practice squad to fill the special teams role of Shamarko Thomas as he dealt with a hamstring injury, Ventrone has carved himself a niche as a gunner on punt and kickoff coverage, however. While it would not be ideal to cut him due to that fact, it is an option.
Once Jones does get back on the field, whether it be this week another two weeks from now, it’s unlikely that he’ll be inserted back into the starting lineup. Since being re-signed, Harrison has taken ownership of the position in what is likely his last hurrah, and has been the starter there for the past two games.
But what the Steelers might do is move Arthur Moats from the right side to the left to spell Jason Worilds, who rarely comes off the field, thereby giving Jones the opportunity to take some of the right outside linebacker reps from Harrison. If he does indeed look good in practice, getting him on the field could only help the Steelers’ struggling pass rush.