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Steelers roster cuts: Did Felix Jones do enough to make this team?

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wanted to emphasize special teams play in his team's final preseason game. Recently acquired running back Felix Jones meets what Tomlin usually wants in his kick returners.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin praised running back Felix Jones for his performance in Pittsburgh's 25-10 loss to Carolina in the preseason finale.

Knee jerk reaction is it was genuine admiration for the job Jones did, and an honorable statement to make before Tomlin cuts him. Digging deeper, it's a wonder if the Steelers might release Dwyer in favor of Jones and Isaac Redman.

Add in Tomlin's recent comments about special teams production being a key factor in the last few roster spots on this year's team. Jones can return kicks - keeping Emmanuel Sanders rested and not chancing the position with a rookie (Markus Wheaton). Tomlin has gone with veterans in these roles several times, yet, he doesn't seem to like using active position players unless he has to.

Chris Rainey finished the season as one of the better per-return kick returners in the league, but he didn't start the season with that spot. Sanders did initially. Is Wheaton any different? Using Jones in that capacity makes sense.

If he showed enough as a runner and a returner, the fact he's scheduled to make a little more than half of what Dwyer is scheduled to make this year certainly helps his cause. Not to suggest financials will be a large part of the decision, but it's definitely a nice tiebreaker; maybe even one extra point for Jones.

Or, perhaps it's more reason to go a second consecutive year with just four receivers, and opting to keep a sixth running back instead (Dwyer, Redman, Le'Veon Bell, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Will Johnson). Tomlin has said throughout this process it's not about reaching a certain number at certain positions, but rather, finding 53 NFL-caliber players and deciding from there.

It's a nice sound byte, but there's a reason why teams generally keep a certan amount of players at certain positions. That doesn't mean it's set in stone, though. If we're going to use paired analysis on this, let's look at the potential 5WR position members, Derek Moye and Justin Brown. If not for Brown's quasi-embarrassing fair catch with a 12-yard cushion on a punt against the Panthers, maybe Jones isn't even going to be considered. However, it happened. Sadly, we all saw it. That could very well have eliminated him.

Moye has no special teams contributions outside the possibility of being on a coverage team, and that's a stretch, to put it mildly. He doesn't seem to have the strength or speed to fill that kind of a role. Without that feather in his cap, one could make a solid argument for keeping Jones and only keeping four wide receivers.

Perhaps Tomlin wasn't just giving positive accolades for a veteran he was about to cut, after all.

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