With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Ross Ventrone.
For a player like Ross Ventrone, an undersized journeyman whose bread and butter has always been and for all likelihood will always be his ability to contribute on special teams, a roster spot will always be in jeopardy. It is exceedingly rare that a non-returner special teams player who is not trusted to dress for offensive or defensive special teams purposes has any sort of roster stability.
Ventrone obviously knows this pretty well considering the number of times he has been cut or demoted to the practice squad the last several years. Since bouncing back and forth consistently for a couple of years with the Patriots, he signed with the Steelers in 2013, but failed to make the roster after he made a gaffe or two in the preseason.
He did manage to make the practice squad in 2014, however, and he was called up to the 53-man roster after Shamarko Thomas was injured. But he performed so well that he stayed the rest of the year on the roster. Even after Thomas returned from injury. Even after he suffered an injury of his own that forced him to miss time.
That didn’t prove to be the case last season, as he was one of the earliest roster casualties last season. He suffered an injury a few games into the season, and, needing the roster spot to promote Martavis Bryant from the suspended list, he was the one released.
He bounced around with the Patriots for a bit, but the Steelers re-signed him at the end of December when Roosevelt Nix went down and he dressed for the final few games, including the postseason. He was signed to a two-year deal, so remains on the roster.
But his roster spot is not guaranteed after the Steelers drafted Sean Davis at safety, and they have other players who are candidates to move to safety. The looming possibility of Will Allen being re-signed is also ever-present until it doesn’t happen, frankly. There is little he can do but continue to try to make himself indispensable covering and blocking on kick and punt return units.