This is simple, really simple.
It has the simplest of fixes.
And this all came about because Jacoby Jones got to the point in his tenuous Steelers tenure where he received mock cheers for doing the most elementary of things associated with his job description —- catching the football.
On Sunday night in an otherwise spectacular 45-10 victory against the Indianapolis Colts wherein the offense performed impeccably and the defense achieved exquisitely, Jacoby Jones — the primary return man for the Steelers — was an absolute catastrophe.
Think of your worst day on the job. He had it; in front of 58,701 on the North Side and many, many more watching on television.
For it, he must go.
And he must go soon.
And he must go swiftly into that not good night he made for himself.
You can’t risk in the NFL (let alone when your team needs to string together some wins to get into the playoffs) any man who is prone to putting the football on the ground more than once in a game. You especially can’t have that man on your roster if he doesn’t contribute otherwise — and Jones doesn’t contribute otherwise. All he really does is, well, put the football on the ground a few times a game.
Again, he must go. As soon as possible.
But where does that leave the Steelers’ return games headed into these final four weeks in pivotal games that all could be dubbed “must-win” contests?
It’s simple, Mike Tomlin. Don’t mess this one up. You have to have Antonio Brown return punts and Markus Wheaton as your primary kickoff returner just after having someone drive Jones to the airport with a one-way ticket to a far away place.
Don’t mess this up, don’t get too cute, don’t make the simplest fix a complex one.
Did you hear what I said, Mr. Tomlin? Brown returns punts and Wheaton returns kicks, end of story.
I don’t want to hear any rumblings about going out and trying to acquire someone off the scrap heap much the same way you did with Jones when Dri Archer couldn’t get the job done. I also don’t want to hear the rumblings about moving some men currently on the roster named something other than Brown and/or Wheaton into return roles with this football team for the remainder of the season.
Don’t outsmart yourself here, coach. Just do what makes the most sense.
I have heard what I consider an asinine argument against Brown and/or Wheaton being showcased in the return game. Some who are against it cry out that men who are that important to the offense shouldn’t be put in the way of additional harm by toting the ball in some of football’s most violent few seconds — those special teams returns where people regularly get “blown up” and bounced across the turf with what seems like the force of 10 car crashes.
To that, I say too bad.
The Steelers need to win football games and they need to do it now if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs.
You know what the best chance of winning football games is right now for this team that is fighting for its playoff existence? Keeping the ball in the hands of its most dynamic players.
Brown certainly is this team’s most dynamic guy and Wheaton is undoubtedly in the top few.
And from here on out, they should be your return men. Got it, Mike Tomlin? No need to get cute with this one.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.