Physically, Steelers undrafted free agent outside linebacker Howard Jones doesn't need anything extra added to his thick, broad shoulders.
The NFL told him, indirectly, he does.
He'll be carrying a large chip on each when the Steelers kick off their team minicamp Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Jones, a defensive end at Division II Shepherd University, did not qualify academically to play Division I football out of high school, and instead of going the junior college route, he chose Division II instead. That doesn't mean he didn't undergo his share of preparation, though. He's put on 50 pounds his his freshman year, when he was recruited as a wide receiver, and didn't look to struggle at all going against much bigger (albeit less talented) blockers.
With his production, as well as in-draft calls from the Cardinals, Cowboys and Browns led Jones to believe he would be selected. When he wasn't, and after he read off his driver's license number to the Steelers' personnel by cell phone light (writes Inside NoVa's David Fawcett), he admitted having mixed emotions.
"I’m mad and happy," Jones said. "It puts a bigger chip on my shoulder."
It's a frustrating experience. Arizona reportedly called Jones on the third day of the draft, during the sixth round, informing him they had no more draft picks but they'd like to sign him as a free agent. The message, as heard by the ears of the jilted, may as well have been "we like guys better than you, but why don't you sign with us anyway, because we don't think you'll end up being drafted."
After that slap in the face, it turns out they were right. You weren't drafted.
While financials were likely the compelling factor in his decision to sign with the Steelers (Pittsburgh reportedly outbid Arizona for his services), there has to be a certain level of animosity welling up in Jones. Not everyone gets drafted, but to be teased the way he was, he's liable to be pretty pissed off.
The Steelers will begin minicamp June 17. While no contact is permitted, Jones has a chance to show a pure form of why teams were lining up to sign him as a UDFA. His speed.
That concept fits right in with what the Steelers are trying to do. Find speed, particularly among defensive players. Jones has that, having tested above just about every other defensive lineman in terms of athletic events at the NFL Scouting Combine (he was projected to be an outside linebacker, so that's somewhat skewed).
Think of him as a thicker Adrian Robinson - an athletic former collegiate defensive end who turned heads during training camp in 2012. Robinson would eventually be traded to Philadelphia and has bounced around the NFL since. Jones could be a more athletic and stronger version.
He's just as raw, however, and will need a bit of seasoning if he is to end up playing a game-day role as an edge rusher. His athleticism, though, could make him an intriguing special teams option, which would give him a foot in the door for the 53-man roster.
With the shoulder chips adding to his bulk, he may just have enough to become a very tough cut.