As evidenced by their selections of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, running back/wide receiver Dri Archer and wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a need for speed. That need for speed also carried over to the undrafted free agents that they signed as well with the addition of Shepherd outside linebacker prospect Howard Jones.
While Jones 4.54 40-yard dash time at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in February is certainly nothing to sneeze about, he told insidenova.com that his nerves got the best of him while in Indianapolis. According to the report, he posted hand-held times of 4.38, 4.33 and 4.36 for two scouts during a March workout.
The 6-2 Jones weighed 235 pounds in Indianapolis, so he will probably be asked by the Steelers to put on some weight between now and the start of training camp.
“You’ve got to eat. You need to be at least 245 to get to a camp,” is reportedly what one Kansas City Chiefs scout told him.
To help with that weight gain, Shepherd assistant football coach Jeremy Overfelt has advised Howard to get busy drinking shakes.
During his college career, Jones registered 35 sacks and 69.5 tackles for loss in 47 games played. He started 46 of those games, so he does have experience underneath his belt, even if it is at the small school level.
During the pre draft process, Jones was characterized as a “poor man’s Dee Ford” during the combine, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports. Dee Ford, who is also 6-2, weighed in at the combine at 252 pounds. He was selected 23rd overall in the draft by the Kansas City Chiefs after registering 20.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss in 42 games played at Auburn.
Despite his speed and eye-popping college production, Jones is considered a long shot right now to make the Steelers final 53 man roster out of training camp. Being as he was an undersized pass rushing defensive end at Shepherd, he must now make the transition to playing standing up as an outside linebacker. Thanks to the Steelers lack of depth at the outside linebacker position, however, he probably couldn’t have chose a better team to sign with. At least the numbers say he has a chance.
After Jones agreed to terms with the Steelers, who had to outbid the Arizona Cardinals for his services, he admitted he was disappointed that he wasn’t drafted after being told by several teams that they had interest in him
“I’m mad and happy,” Jones said. “It puts a bigger chip on my shoulder.”
Jones will likely bring that chip with him to the Steelers rookie mini camp that gets underway this weekend. Hopefully he brings a few of those shakes with him as well.