Ross Ventrone Losing Edge Over Competition While Sidelined

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ross Ventrone has two accrued NFL seasons under his belt, but during neither of those occasions did he manage to make the 53-man roster out of training camp. With him being sidelined for a while now with a lower leg injury, I can’t help but think it’s looking more and more like he doesn’t make the final 53-man roster.

Ventrone is in his third summer with the Steelers after previously spending time in New England. In 2013, he failed to make the final 53-man roster after he was responsible for a miscue or two on special teams during the preseason, though he did spent the last few weeks of that season on the practice squad.

In 2014, benefitting from the newly-expanded 10-man practice squad, Ventrone was kept there as a sixth safety, with five having already been carried on the 53-man roster. At this point, however, even if the Steelers do decide to carry a fifth safety, he may not be the one selected.

For starters, given the situation at linebacker, where it seems increasingly likely that they intend to carry 10 of them, which is very rare, the safety position may well be the most likely to pull that extra roster spot from—I say likely because at this point it seems the team will stick to their guns with three quarterbacks.

Let’s say, however, that the Steelers do end up choosing to carry a fifth safety on the roster. Would it go to Ventrone? While he managed to carve out a niche for himself primarily as a gunner on the punt coverage unit, it seems that he is fairly well limited to doing just that.

A pair of first-year safeties, Alden Darby and Ian Wild, have been receiving increased attention of late, including from their head coach, and both of them are also potentially significant special teams contributors.

I already wrote yesterday about the variety of ways that Wild has proven himself to be a contributor, who presents an upside of being able to play on defense. Darby, too, has the potential to develop into a defensive contributor. He started the first preseason game at safety due to the number of injuries.

When Ventrone does finally get back to practice, it will be interesting to see where he falls in line in the safety pecking order. He is now currently the only safety remaining down with Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden recently returning.

Wild and Darby have been getting a lot of quality reps in part because of his absence, but have they managed to pass him on the depth chart, keeping their place in the safety rotation?

As we have seen throughout camp, injured players on the bubble have a short leash. Ventrone has missed an extended period of time, but the team has kept him around for a reason rather than waiving him injured. They obviously want him to get back and play and fight for a roster spot, but just being afforded that opportunity does not mean that it’s more likely than not to happen.

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