Veteran return man Jacoby Jones, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ newest player, failed to return any of the three kickoffs that he saw during the game, and the one punt that he did ‘return’, of the four fielded, was in error.
As poor as the blocking schemes up front have been in the return game at times this season, which was a point that I emphasized in Jones’ debut with the Steelers a week ago, there is no denying that his roughing outing on this day was on him.
Jones fielded the opening kickoff in a way that strongly seemed to indicate that he misjudged the depth, being forced to reach above his head to bring in the ball about two thirds of the way into the end zone. While the rest of the return unit expected him to bring the ball out, he chose to take a knee.
His second attempt at a kickoff return came just six minutes later after the Browns were able to kick a field goal. The ball cut sharply to Jones’ right, and he chased it about 15 yards laterally, for some reason leaving his feet to attempt to field the ball.
He alligator-armed the attempt, which got into his chest and facemask and caused him to put the ball on the ground, forcing him to regather himself, then the ball, and cut his losses by settling for the touchback.
The Browns had to punt the ball for the first time on the first play of the second quarter. Andy Lee booting it 32 yards from the Steelers’ 42, Jones called for a fair catch at that spot, but spread his base too wide and let the ball bounce through his arms. He was fortunate to be able to recover it on his own rather than giving Cleveland the ball with first and goal to go.
Of the other three opportunities, Jones successfully fair caught two punts into the 15-yard line, a modest improvement and accomplishment considering how his day began, and he also let another punt bounce and be downed at Cleveland’s 47-yard line after Lee kicked from the back of his own end zone.
Jones’ third and final attempt to field a kickoff properly ended as poorly or worse as his first two attempts. On this occasion, the ball again pulled him sharply to his right, attempting to bring it out with a running start.
Instead, he allowed the ball to bounce off his chest. It rolled forward and hit the front pylon, which technically resulted in a touchback, but things could have been a lot worse, for example, if it had rolled out of bounds at the one-yard line.
To recap, in six touches, Jones put the ball on the ground three times, did not cleanly field another that forced him to take a touchback, and successfully fair caught the other two. The return unit had nothing to do with this. But the Steelers are not likely to dump him. He has the bye week to get himself sorted after finding himself in new surroundings in the middle of a season.