Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ross Ventrone was finally able to return to the practice fields at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe on Wednesday after missing the last several weeks with a lower leg injury and if things go well over the course of the next few days, the Villanova product should be able to make his 2015 preseason debut Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field against the Green Bay Packers.
While Ventrone’s play at the safety position leaves a lot to be desired, he has established himself as a top-notch special teams player during his career and that was evidenced just last season when he recorded seven total tackles while covering both punts and kickoffs. Ventrone logged 123 special teams snaps last season and that number would’ve been even higher had he not missed two games with a hamstring injury.
Currently, four Steelers safeties appear to be locks to make the team’s final 53 man roster in 2015 and those four players are Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen and Robert Golden, who like Ventrone, is also a solid special teams player. In other words, Ventrone will need to hope that the team decides to keep five safeties in total if he is going to remain with the organization as he’s no longer eligible for the practice squad because he dressed for nine games last season.
In order for the Steelers to keep five safeties this year, it would likely result in them keeping just nine total linebackers or five total cornerbacks. At this point, one could easily speculate that Ventrone is battling linebacker Anthony Chickillo and cornerbacks B.W. Webb and Kevin Fogg for the proverbial 53rd spot on this year’s roster. Ventrone is the better special teams player of those three, but there’s no guarantee that will be enough. The only other way that Ventrone could possibly be kept is if the Steelers decide to keep him instead of a ninth offensive linemen. Being as the health status of tackle Mike Adams is still somewhat in the air, I suppose that option should be included.
Should Ventrone ultimately not make the final round of cuts this year, I like his chances of immediately landing with another team. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he found himself back in a New England Patriots uniform once again as that’s the team that knows him the best outside of the Steelers. Additionally, being as the Steelers will open the 2015 regular season against the Patriots, I’m sure that head coach Bill Belichick would love to have the opportunity to debrief Ventrone leading up to that contest.
I’m probably one of the few that’s actually rooting for Ventrone to make the final roster this year, but I’m resigned to fact that there’s a good chance he won’t. It would, howebver, make me sick to my stomach watching him make plays against the Steelers in the regular season opener in a Patriots uniform.