The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Jacoby Jones
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 9 Years
Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers were already not particularly fond of long-time return man Jacoby Jones before the team ever acquired him, but his performance while in a Steelers uniform did absolutely nothing to change his perception.
Jones, of course, spent three years with the Ravens after five seasons in Houston, accumulating nine return touchdowns in his career with healthy return averages as both a kick returner as well as a punt returner.
But one of the concerns that the Ravens in particular had, which helped prompt his departure from Baltimore, was a growing issue of his ball security, and he fumbled four times on returns during the 2014 season. He was not retained in spite of a kick return average of better than 30 yards.
Jones signed with the Chargers during the offseason, but didn’t even last half the season there. He played in only five games, missing two due to injury, and only as a returner. In San Diego, he actually recorded minus-four return yards on five punts. On nine kick returns, he averaged 21.5 yards.
After San Diego released him mid-season, the Steelers claimed him and his contract off waivers, releasing Dri Archer to make room for him, and they immediately plugged him into the starting role at both kick returner and punt returner, taking Antonio Brown off of punt returns, which had been a modest goal for some time.
Neither really worked out very well. As a kick returner, he had one good performance in four games, averaging 24.4 yards on nine total kick returns, and he managed to fumble one kickoff as well, although he managed to recover it.
As a punt returner, he averaged 3.2 yards on six returns with a long of 14 yards, a return that was aided by the fact that he fumbled the ball and it matriculated out of bounds. He also fumbled on another punt that he lost. He generally had consistent issues handling the ball, even on touchbacks in the end zone on kickoffs.
Though the Steelers benched him after four games, he remained on the roster a bit longer, finally releasing him on New Year’s Day to promote a special teams ace from the practice squad. I think it goes without saying that the Jacoby Jones experiment was a dismal failure for a return man who had clearly lost it.