Steelers: Howard Jones’ Second Attempt at Greatness


If you do a Google search for the name Howard Jones you will more than likely find results for the 1980’s pop sensation famous for the song “Things Can Only Get Better” before you find any for the man we will be discussing in this article.

The Howard Jones that plays linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers is facing an uphill battle for a roster spot as he enters his second year in the NFL.

Coming out of Division II Shepherd University, the 6’4″, 238 pound senior fell through all seven rounds of the 2014 NFL draft, and landed in the lap of the Steelers as an undrafted free agent.

It isn’t new for the Steelers to grab a multitude of unsigned players after the draft. They’ve been doing so with the likes of Donnie Shell and James Harrison for many years. Many expect these players to be irrelevant and not to contribute much to the team.

In fact, many thought he was a running back, seeing as he wore #34 through training camp, which had been associated with Rashard Mendenhall in the past. This was due to the fact that the team was short on linebacker eligible numbers with so many of them on their summer roster.

He entered the 2014 preseason with slim chances. Other undrafted players such Josh Mauro and free agent signings like Arthur Moats were heavily favored to make the roster. “HoJo”, as he is affectionately known as by fans, started the preseason with a bang.

In the Steelers’ preseason opener against the New York Giants, Jones accounted for all of Pittsburgh’s turnovers on defense. Both were recovered fumbles, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The rookie linebacker with a running back number made a name for himself that night.

In the Steelers’ second preseason game, Jones would strike again. Against the Buffalo Bills, HoJo would make yet another fumble recovery, taking it all the way to the Bill’s one yard line. Things were looking as if Jones would be making the final 53. With a nose for the football and his playmaking ability it was almost a certainty.

He would survive roster cuts until the trimming to set the final 53 man roster. Pittsburgh obviously noticed the talent the young man displayed, and he would be assigned to the team’s practice squad.

There he would wait until the start of the next season, where a new opportunity arose for the chance at greatness.

In 2015, Jones may have a new number (44), but the goal is still the same as it was a year ago: Make the final roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jones attended Steelers’ rookie minicamp last week in order to get a head start on making his dreams a reality. Second year players who spent their time on the practice squad, such as himself, are also eligible to attend.

He said this of his three day experience:

"“I definitely came a long way. I knew a lot more plays than I thought. It felt good to get back out there. It felt like I had an edge.”"

He will need that edge if he wishes to make this year’s roster. With Harrison, Moats, Jarvis Jones, and Bud Dupree all but guaranteed a roster spot, he will have to fight and overachieve not just as a linebacker, but prove his worth on Special Teams as well.

Aug 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Howard Jones (34) stands on the sidelines against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Not only will he have to perform well, but Jones will have to perform better than this year’s competition. Players in his same situation will be fighting for a much coveted roster spot in what is always a fierce competition on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster.

Jordan Zumwalt will be looking to bounce back after spending his rookie season on the Injured/Reserve list, Shawn Lemon was signed to the roster after a stint in the CFL, Shayon Green was signed in April after going undrafted last year, and Anthony Chickillo will attempt to make the roster after being selected in the 6th round of this year’s draft.

In total, there are thirteen linebackers on the roster. Jones will have his work cut out for him in order to secure a spot, but he is no stranger to having the odds stacked against him. He was a longshot to be drafted, he wasn’t initially expected to make the roster last year, and he has stiff opposition in his second outing.

We will see how well Jones performs as we progress deeper into the summer with OTAs and training camps. Many are pulling for HoJo to make the roster. Everyone in Pittsburgh loves a true underdog.

For Howard Jones “Things can only get better” from here on out.

Next: Steelers Player Preview: Bud Dupree

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