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Steelers sign Howard Jones, Alejandro Villanueva, five others to futures contract

The Steelers retained seven practice squad players with futures contracts Monday.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are getting their 2014 practice squad band back together this winter.

The team announced Monday they will retain the majority of their 2014 practice squad by signing seven of them, including 2014 undrafted free agent outside linebacker Howard Jones and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Along with them, the team kept tight end Rob Blanchflower (a seventh round draft pick in 2014), defensive end Ethan Hemer, wide receiver C.J. Goodwin, cornerback Kevin Fogg and defensive lineman Joe Kruger.

Jones, the uber-athletic Division II prospect, made the team's initial cut to 75 players this past training camp, and after an impressive preseason, stuck with the team's practice squad for the duration of the year. With one experienced outside linebacker among the team's roster, Jones has a realistic shot to push for a roster spot this summer.

Blanchflower is also in a good position to make next year's squad. Heath Miller is the only tight end signed - both Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer are free agents - and it's a position likely to be addressed with a high draft pick this April.