Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
A late-preseason acquisition, many believed that Felix Jones would be on the “outside looking in” after the final cuts were made by the Pittsburgh Steelers in late August. The former first round pick however played well enough during his two weeks with the team to warrant spot on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster.
After Jones rode the pine for almost the entirety of Pittsburgh’s season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans, he was able to get some work last Monday against the Bengals due to an injury to Isaac Redman. While Jones rushed for only 37 yards on 10 carries, he looked far more comfortable and competent running the ball than Redman and Jonathan Dwyer did during preseason and regular season play.
Jones’ recent play has been noticed by his coaching staff, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley had this to say yesterday about his veteran running back:
"I thought he did a good job on the carries he had. He found the holes when they were there. We need to do a better job creating some space for him, because he does look like he has some ability if we can get him in space. I think he did a good job in the game [against Cincinnati], and he will get more of an opportunity this week."
With Redman and Dwyer largely ineffective, the Steelers might just have to rely heavily on Jones until Le’Veon Bell can return to the lineup from his foot injury. When the rookie will eventually return is still a mystery, but one has to figure that Felix can provide the Steelers’ backfield with some versatility in the meantime.
If the Steelers are going to employ more formations with four wide receivers and more of a hurry-up scheme until Bell returns, then Jones would be the running back who is best suited to receive a bulk of the work. Unlike Dwyer and Redman, Jones can play much better in space, possesses some speed, and he can actually run the ball successfully out of shotgun formations.
The former Arkansas Razorback will have a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of during the coming weeks, and the Steelers desperately needs someone to kick-start their ground game. I for one am intrigued to see how many touches that Jones will receive on Sunday, especially if Pittsburgh can get their passing-attack to open up running lanes for Felix.
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