Things looked bad for Steelers rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones. Strapped to a gurney, still wearing his game pants, an IV dripping into his arm, he was rushed to a nearby hospital late Saturday night.
Final diagnosis: He had the wind knocked out of him, nothing more. He spent the night in the hospital, was back with the Steelers Monday, and taking some good-natured verbal abuse from his teammates about it.
"He's just going to hear from a lot of guys about how soft he is," inside linebacker Larry Foote said.
Like most of his coaches and teammates, Foote did not think Jones was seriously hurt until he turned on the television later and realized he was transported to the hospital.
"It kind of scared me when I saw [the news] going across the TV. But I texted him, and he told me he was fine. I told him they don't make them how they used to make them."
Jones, though, has shown on the field he can be as tough as the next guy. The Steelers will hold him out of a game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., but he has a chance to become the first rookie to nail down a starting job at outside linebacker since they moved to a 3-4 defense 31 years ago.
Jones had just intercepted a pass Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter, again displaying his uncommon play-making ability and why the Steelers drafted him in the first round in April.
"I got tackled from behind, fell on the ball, dude fell on me, knocked the air out of me," Jones said. "I don't know how many fell on top of me."
It wasn't his idea to go to the hospital.
"Our staff just wanted to get it checked and make sure that we didn't do damage," Jones said.
It's a good thing there was none because Steelers rookies have discovered all-too often about such things. Le'Veon Bell, their second-round pick, appeared set to start at halfback until his right foot was injured in the second preseason game. He has a small ligament tear and could miss the first month of the regular season.
Last year, the Steelers lost their top three draft picks at certain points. No. 1, guard David DeCastro, missed all but the final four games after a preseason knee injury. No. 2, tackle Mike Adams, went on injured reserve and missed six games with an ankle injury. No. 3, linebacker Sean Spence, missed all season with a devastating knee injury in the preseason that also prompted the Steelers to place him on their physically-unable-to-perform/reserve list Sunday.
That doesn't count the self-inflicted legal wounds suffered by No. 4, nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, in his rookie season, and No. 5, running back Chris Rainey, shortly after his rookie season.
This year, besides Bell and the scare Jones gave everyone over the weekend, rookie cornerback Terry Hawthorne missed part of the spring after knee surgery and nearly all the Latrobe portion of training camp.
Might the Steelers have a rookie injury jinx?
"It's the game of football," Jarvis Jones explained. "People don't understand. They think you can just play football and just have long careers without getting nicks and that. But that doesn't happen. Things are going to happen if you play this game long enough.
"It can happen early on, it can happen in the middle of your career or the end. You never know when it's going to happen. When it does, you have to do the right thing, take care of your body and get back out there as soon as possible."
Rookie QB Jones hangs in
Rookie Landry Jones said he hopes he still is here when they make the final cuts to 53 by Saturday, but the release of John Wilson Parker Sunday nearly assures him he will be the team's third quarterback.
He will be the first rookie quarterback to make the 53-man roster to open the season since Dennis Dixon, a fifth-round pick in 2008. The Steelers drafted Jones in the fourth round, the highest they've chosen a quarterback since they picked Ben Roethlisberger first in 2004.
Jones played in the first two games, not the third, but expects to see plenty of time Thursday night.
"They haven't really told us what the rotation will be yet, but I'm sure I'll play the majority of the game. I don't think Ben will really play. Typically, he hasn't in the past."
Jones has completed 14 of 31 passes for 159 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a 95.8 passer rating playing mostly with backups.
One of the more intense competitions for a roster spot is taking place at punter, where Drew Butler is trying to hold off veteran Brian Moorman to play his second season for the Steelers.
It looked as though the Steelers were ready to turn to the veteran when they signed Moorman, who was on the NFL's all-decade team of the 2000s. Moorman also generally has better hang time on his punts.
But, when coach Mike Tomlin cut the roster from 90 to 75 Sunday and a punter did not go, it was a sign Tomlin wants to see more. They each punted one half Saturday against Kansas City and likely will do the same Thursday night. Butler has a 47.3-yard average on 12 punts and a 33.5 net. Moorman has a 40.5 average with a 37.9 net on eight punts.
Man on the move
Last year, the Steelers drafted Kelvin Beachum, a tackle at SMU, to play guard. He wound up starting five games at right tackle as a rookie. He played more at tight end Saturday night than any of the tight ends. Thursday night, he will make his debut at center, unless the ankle he twisted in practice Monday affects that. Beachum has practiced at center since the spring when new line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. asked if he would be interested in doing so.
Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who missed the past two games with a sprained knee (MCL), returned to practice.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published August 27, 2013 4:00 AM