Every year there are players in all 32 NFL training camps who capture the attention, and hearts, of the fan base. These players don’t usually have a huge role during the regular season, but for those two months in the summer, they are the talk of the town.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, we all know players who have fit this description. Players like Isaac Redman, Tuzar Skipper and Mike Hilton come to mind. Hilton and Redman developed a role for themselves on the team’s roster, while Skipper was unable to turn a dynamic preseason into a role on any NFL roster.
In 2021, the player most talked about was Jamir Jones. Jones was signed to a reserve contract this past offseason, yet most fans might think he was an undrafted free agent. Jones was an undrafted rookie free agent, but in 2020 to the Houston Texans. Clearly, Jones didn’t stick with Houston, but he recalls his brief stint with the Texans as frustrating.
“I didn’t even get a chance last year to even put on a helmet,” Jones told media last week. “I was in Houston for about a week and a half. The first whole week I was quarantined and then I was there for like three days. We did workouts in the weight room and then they cut me. So, I didn’t even get a chance to do anything.”
Shockingly, Jones did let his 2020 experience deter him, and the former Notre Dame product participated in the team’s pro day in 2021. What Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin saw at the workout was enough for them to give him a chance.
“As soon as I got off the field, Mike T(head coach Mike Tomlin) and Mr. Colbert, they came right over to me and they were just basically saying they were going to give me a shot and said can I be in Pittsburgh by Monday,” Jones recalled. “I said heck yeah.”
It was shortly after this workout the reserve contract was signed, and Jones joined his brother, Jarron, in Pittsburgh. Throughout camp and the preseason Jones was showing he belonged in the NFL. The question was whether it would be with the Steelers or not. Last week, when the team had to cut their roster to the league-mandated 53 players, Jones found out he was sticking with the team who gave him a shot.
“I was just like a huge relief,” Jones said. “Going through the whole day, you’re trying to be normal, you have a normal day, practice, meetings and everything and there’s so much uncertainty. You don’t know how things are going to go. I was just sitting at my locker waiting for four (o’clock). When it hit, it was just like a whole bunch of relief. It was real.”
Jones isn’t about to mess up this opportunity. It is now when the real pressure begins for Jones, to prove the Steelers made the right decision. Even if the only snaps he receives are on special teams, proving his worth remains for Jones.
“You come every day and prove why you should be here,” said Jones. “That’s the mentality you have to have. Just prove why you can’t get rid of me. That’s the mentality I take every day. Even today, making the 53, that doesn’t mean that in two weeks I’m still going to be here. So, I still have to prove each and every day that I’m worthy of this chance and I’m worthy of being one of the 53 on the roster.”
The real work starts now, and Jones will have to not just earn a spot on the 53-man roster, but also prove he deserves a helmet on game days. As that work starts this week as the Steelers prepare for the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 of the regular season, the hope is Jones will make an impact in one way or another.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Bills this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET.