The tinkering with the bottom of the roster continues for the Pittsburgh Steelers and GM Omar Khan.
Following the surprising news of defensive lineman Renell Wren landing on season-ending injured reserve due to an undisclosed injury, the Steelers were awarded second-year defensive tackle Manny Jones off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals Tuesday night.
Jones was undrafted out of Colorado State in 2022 and signed with the Cardinals following last year’s draft. He appeared in four games as a rookie, logging 59 defensive snaps and recording six tackles. He spent most of the year on the team’s practice squad before being elevated late in the year. He made his debut in Week 9 but saw the bulk of his snaps over the final two weeks, logging 22 snaps in each of Week 17 and Week 18 with four total tackles against the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
At Colorado State, Jones was productive, recording 181 tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks across five seasons with the Rams. In 2022, he notched 45 tackles, six tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks in his final season at CSU.
Listed at 6025, 280 pounds with 32 3/8-inch arms coming out of college, Jones ran 4.93 at his Pro Day with a 31-inch vertical and 9’8″ broad jump. On paper, Jones will provide defensive line depth this summer for the Steelers. But based on his NFL experience and some of the reps he put on tape late last season, could he be a dark horse candidate to stick on the 53-man roster as depth?
Let’s take a look at the film on Jones from the 2022 season in Arizona, shall we?
Not much to write home about when it comes to Jones as a pass rusher.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jones graded out at a 51.9 in the pass rush department in 2022, recording just one total hurry in 23 pass rush reps.
On tape, he has some good speed to power conversions, but he’s slow to disengage with blockers and really doesn’t have any counters to his game.
Here against Atlanta in Week 17, Jones tries to convert his quick get-off into power in an effort to walk the left guard into quarterback Desmond Ridder’s lap. You can see Jones stall out quickly though, and he doesn’t have any counters in his arsenal.
That said, Jones is a high-effort guy, one who fights tooth and nail on every rep. He does a good job here of trying to fight off the block to get to Ridder. While he doesn’t quite get there, he draws a holding call, setting up a 1st and 20.
Same game against Atlanta, Jones is lined up between the left tackle and tight end.
You can see the explosion in his game and the impressive get-off that he possesses. He’s able to walk the tight end back a bit, disrupting the pocket some, but he isn’t able to get off the block or even throw a counter in the pass rush. Everything right now with Jones as a pass rusher is bull rush after bull rush with the occasional win shooting gaps thanks to his get-off.
Jones was rather intriguing as a run defender on tape in the final three games he played in 2022.
He’s a bit undersized (6025, 280) but he might be able to put on 10 to 15 pounds and play the nose a bit for the Steelers.
Jones plays with a motor that runs hot, constantly runs to the football — which will endear him to Pittsburgh — and really just plays hard. He leaves it all on the field, especially against the run.
Decent rep here against Denver in Week 15. Splitting the duo and holding his ground against the run, he gets in on the action at the end of the rep.
He’s not the biggest lineman and won’t consistently anchor and hold firm against the run, but he has the want-to and did well against Denver in Week 15. One thing I really like about Jones too is that he’s quick to find the football in the run game.
His eyes are always in the backfield and searching, and when he finds it, he gets to it.
Jones was really sound at shooting gaps and crossing the face of linemen in Arizona’s scheme. His get-off is rather quick, and he plays with good pad level overall and really understands leverage for his size.
He gave linemen fits when shooting gaps and did so here against Denver in Week 15. He’s just a relentless, high-energy player who won’t quit. Great job of crossing face and fighting through block to get in on the stop.
The power really stands out with Jones when he has it all going.
This is against Atlanta’s Jake Matthews in Week 17. Look at the displacement he creates, blowing up the run in the backfield.
This was the rep that really opened my eyes. Granted, he doesn’t get off the block in time to make the play, but that is some impressive pop in his hands and power in his legs coupled with a quick get-off.
He has some bad reps on tape too, Of course, that’s San Francisco’s Trent Williams, a future Hall of Famer, as part of this duo in Week 18, but Jones can’t be moved that much.
Just an ugly rep overall as he’s completely blown off the ball. That’s where some of the size concerns come into play with Jones. He’s not going to consistently anchor in these situations.
One thing you have to do to play defensive line in Pittsburgh is run to the ball.
It’s something that Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Kimo von Oelhoffen and others have done in the past and was passed on to Cameron Heyward and others during John Mitchell’s time.
That standard still remains. Fortunately for Jones, he’ll fit right in there in that regard.
Effort is all over the tape with Jones. He refuses to quit and constantly chases the ball, even when it’s away from him.
That effort really shows up as he’s around the pile a ton, much like this one against Atlanta.
Effort like this will stick out to teammates and coaches and will earn him more looks in training camp and preseason action. That could give him a shot to make the 53-man roster, or the practice squad in Pittsburgh.
Landing a waiver claim with NFL experience and some decent tape like Jones is a solid move by the Steelers, especially after losing Wren to an undisclosed injury.
We’ll see what the future holds for Jones and what position he’ll play in Pittsburgh, but there is certainly some intrigue with his tape.