Building a 53-man roster is an inexact science over which you don’t even control all the variables. Once you make a decision to remove a player from your 53-man roster, even if it is intended to be temporary, it exposes him. This is particularly the case for non-vested young players, who must be subject to waivers at all points in the offseason.
The Pittsburgh Steelers rolled the dice in a roster maneuver last year with first-year outside linebacker Jamir Jones and lost. They didn’t have an opportunity to get him back until he was waived for a third time in a calendar year with the final cuts by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Mike Tomlin basically confirmed that they wanted to keep him even though they waived him to make room for Derrek Tuszka for special teams purposes.
“We had a good experience with him last time. You’ve got to make decisions week in and week out in an effort to field the very best group for that specific task, and sometimes young guys and guys on the fringe, if you will, get lost in the shuffle”, he told reporters yesterday, via transcript. “Somebody claimed him and we had to move on”.
That would be the Los Angeles Rams, with whom Jones lasted most of the season before being waived again very late in the year, and then claimed yet again by the Jaguars, who had one of the highest claim priorities. He remained in Jacksonville until final cuts this year.
“We had an opportunity to reconnect and usually, you guys know us, we will do repeat business if it’s a good relationship”, Tomlin added on Jones’ return. “He’s one of those guys. He’s back here for a second time and usually they’re back here for a second time because they have some things that we value, not only in terms of talent, but in approach to business that are in line with our mantra”.
A college free agent out of Notre Dame, the Steelers first signed Jones as a first-year player in April last season after he worked out at his alma mater. He impressed throughout the offseason and particularly in the preseason, enough to make the team.
A few weeks into the year, however, they flipped Jones for Tuszka, whom they signed to their practice squad at final cuts when the Denver Broncos let him go, seeing in him a more regular and proven special teams contributor.
They undoubtedly hoped that Jones would safely make it through waivers and they could re-sign him to their practice squad, but it didn’t work out that way. He ended up playing 76 defensive snaps and 221 special teams snaps during his time in Los Angeles and Jacksonville.
Now that he’s back in Pittsburgh, he will play a key role in holding down the fort on the left side of the defense while T.J. Watt is out with a pec injury. Between him and Malik Reed, it’s on their shoulders now. The Steelers believed in him last year, which is why they brought him back. Now he gets to show it was warranted.