Steelers may turn Felix Jones into fantasy football RB3 before you know it

      September 6, 2013 @ 18:00:00 PDT


I wrote on Wednesday that the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be home to a scenario in which Ben Roethlisberger becomes a fantasy QB1 again. A prime reason for that speculation is the potentially poor shape, once again, of the team's running game.

In fact, it could be worse, in one aspect. The released Jonathan Dwyer was part of a group that, according to data accumulated by this fan blog, was the best in the NFL in terms of protecting the passer last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell
Bell hasn't played meaningful snaps

Felix Jones used to be pretty good at it. While he was in Philadelphia Eagles camp, however, critics around the beat and the blogosphere hammered him for, among other things, his pass-pro deficiency.

That skill has become essential to the job of running back in the NFL. It rings truer in the Steel City than some other towns because Big Ben's sometimes lauded toughness and improvisational skills increase the burden on his offensive line. Jones will need to display -- to rediscover? -- it to stay on the field.

If he does, then one can also envision a scenario in which the Dallas Cowboys castoff becomes Pittsburgh's lead tailback. Bell's sprained right foot may not go away easily, and if it's healed, it may not remain that way. The Michigan State product is a big man, and that's a touchy injury.

Jones' "natural run instincts," as Mike Tomlin has referred to them more than once, clearly appeal to the head coach. Unlike Philly's, Pittsburgh's O sounds as if it could be a great fit for the 26-year-old who has only 697 total touches to his credit in five regular seasons. Multiple writers have since commented on this fact, but a blogger at Behind the Steel Curtain observed it about a week into Jones' stint with the Steelers.

The opportunity will be available right away. Isaac Redman has been named the starter in Bell's absence, but the coaching staff plans to take that ever popular approach: "to go with the hot hand." The Tennessee Titans' defense wasn't any good last year, and personnel-wise, it isn't much better this year.

Jones won't rush for more than five yards a carry, like he did in his career prior to last season. He has the physical ability to hit the big one, though his responses to questions from the media suggest that he still hasn't learned a vital lesson for a would-be featured runner: how to take what's given. But is he beyond the point at which he can't do 4.4 per, like he did from 2010 through 2011? Perhaps not, especially in this system.

Don't drop some other high-upside player in order to add Jones. If you have any of the dozens of lukewarm bodies that often occupy fantasy rosters for one reason or another, however, then you should be willing to stash him, at least for a week or three.

Naturally, if you don't pick up the former Arkansas star and he puts out a quality effort this weekend, then you'll be too late. Jones is the type of player on whom you can't mind taking a flier as long as the cost is next to nothing.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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