Ross Ventrone Familiar With The Difference Between Being 53rd And 54th

It has got to be mentally tough to be a player like Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ross Ventrone—or more specifically, to be a player in his position, chronically on the bubble, never knowing if he is going to be the 53rd man or the 54th man, the last man on the roster or the first man off it.

The 29-year-old Ventrone knows what both sides are like, having spent a total of 23 games on the 53-man roster since 2011, including 15 games with the Steelers over the course of the past two years, during which he has been frequently on and off the team as much as anybody in recent memory.

The whole story takes on a more significant role this season, because he no longer has practice squad eligibility—and that is a big deal, considering that he spent time on not just Pittsburgh’s practice squad last season, but also New England’s, where his brother is a special teams coach.

Under the recent tweaks to the rules pertaining to the practice squad that also included its expansion from eight players to 10, there was also stipulated that up to two players with no more than two seasons of accrued experience could be placed on the practice squad. Ventrone had accrued seasons in 2011 and in 2014, and so was eligible to serve on the Patriots’ practice squad after he was released from the Steelers, and then was later brought back after he was, again, released by New England.

Of course, things might have gone differently if he had stayed healthy last year. He made the initial 53-man roster as the team’s fifth safety, which is what he hopes to duplicate this season, but he was released after four games due in large part to the fact that he suffered a hamstring injury at the time, and the Steelers needed a roster spot available to activate Martavis Bryant—one could also make the argument that he would not have made the initial 53-man roster had Bryant not been suspended, but I don’t know that that would have been true.

After spending much of the year on New England’s practice squad, he was released in mid-November, and was unemployed in the NFL until late December, when the Steelers re-signed him to the practice squad following the promotion of L.J. Fort, who took Roosevelt Nix’s place on the 53-man roster. A few days later, he was activated from the 53-man roster after Jacoby Jones was released.

He has been back in the Steelers’ organization since, which includes the regular season finale and the team’s two post-season games, active for each of those three games, recording a tackle in the Wildcard round. He recorded three tackles during the regular season in addition to downing multiple punts and inducing fair catches.

The future of Mr Roster Bubble himself is very much up in the air this year—it is unclear if the Steelers will have enough resources to carry a fifth safety who is exclusively a special teams contributor. But he seems to always find a way back anyway.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Ross Ventrone: the likable, long-haired, cockroach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

  • LabRat0116

    The kid is almost always the first one to the ball carrier. He is fast and has that “heat seeking missile” mentality.

    I really wish the NFL would expand the roster up a bit to 56-57 players. That would benefit ALL NFL teams.

  • Dan

    I’m gonna call it now. Ventrone beats out Shamarko for the final safety spot this year. Both guys will serve the same purpose, but Ventrone does it better despite being undersized and undrafted. The light just never came on for Shamarko, and when the coach says that your problems are “from the neck up”, you’re in trouble.

  • Clutterbox

    I agree. Ventrone provides more value than Shamarko. However, I can see Steelers choosing Shamarko over him to “save face” about spending 2 draft picks. It is unfortunate, but it happens all the time.

  • RickM

    I admire his effort and perserverance. I’ll bet this guy is a success post-football. He just never gives up and makes the most of his athletic abilities.

  • joed32

    Shamarko had 10 solo tackles and 2 assists, Ross had 2 solo and 1 assist. That doesn’t add up.

  • Reader783

    That’s a bit misleading as Shamarko played 15 games to Ventrone’s 6. Ross also fought injury for most of those games he played. Without a doubt in my mind, Ross Ventrone is our biggest difference maker on special teams. He is always affecting the play, whether he is making the tackle, taking out a key lead blocker or himself making a key block, I always see him making a play. I think he’s a real difference maker and one of the hardest workers in the league. Love that kid and I think if he had been drafted in the 4th round like Shamarko, we’d feel more inclined to keep him on the roster.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Always liked Ventrone but there isn’t a lot of 29 year old ST guys in the league. I will doubt he makes the squad honestly.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Actually Ventrone was released when he was injured. I believe Thomas and Ventrone are very near equals in terms of their special teams contributions, and together they make up one of the best gunner tandems in the league.

  • falconsaftey43

    1 draft pick