Steelers

Sense of urgency picking up ☕

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Tevin Jones (14) celebrates a touchdown against the Buccaneers -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Steelers broke training camp at Saint Vincent College and are now headed into Week 2 of the preseason.

They've basically got two weeks before final cutdowns happen, meaning there's not a lot of time for players fighting for a roster spot to make a final impression.

And, in fact, for some players, there might not be any time left at all.

"We are getting more deliberate about the places we put people in," Mike Tomlin said. "We acknowledge that time is running out in terms of opportunities for guys to make a case for themselves. All of that makes a level of urgency."

Tevin Jones is one who is feeling that.

The first-year receiver spent last year on the team's practice squad after spending time with the Texans and Chiefs in a similar capacity. At 26, he knows time is running out if he's going to make it in the NFL.

And to do that, Jones knows it's about more than just what he does catching the ball.

"As far as offense, I did what I could and did a good job," said Jones, who had three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers. "Now, it’s time for me to show what I can do on special teams. But on offense, I can’t take it easy there, either."

There is no time to relax when you're a guy fighting for your professional life.

Jones is currently locked in a battle with established veterans Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers, and fellow young receiver Johnny Holton for a spot as the fifth or sixth receiver on the Steelers' roster.

To be that guy, he knows has to excel on special teams. It's something he learned from Darrius Heyward-Bey last season when he was on the practice squad.

"Hey-Bey, he taught us you can be a guy who can play in this league a long time by playing well on special teams," Jones told me. "He was a guy who was a top-10 pick in the league, but he was humble and wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. It made me realize how important that is."

At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Jones has a body built for special teams.

Building a mindset for it can be a little different, especially for wide receivers. They're accustomed to catching the ball -- in most cases a lot in college. Tackling people, however, is something they're not used to doing.

"On special teams as a receiver, you’ve just got to be active out there and react," Jones said. "That’s mainly what a defensive player is. If you can do that as a receiver, just play the game, everything will be alright."

With JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief and rookie Diontae Johnson sitting out and Rogers seeing only a handful of snaps, Jones played early on offense against Tampa Bay. But he didn't get on the field on special teams until the fourth quarter.

He'd like to change that against the Chiefs.

"I went over the film and everything was all right," Jones said of his game against Tampa Bay. "On special teams, I only got in in the fourth quarter. It was pretty light for me. The next game should be a lot better. I should get more special teams."

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