When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field against the Arizona Cardinals today for Super Bowl XLIII, Aliceville, Ala., native Amos Jones will be on the Pittsburgh sidelines coaching the special teams.
Jones, a 1978 graduate of Pickens Academy in Carrollton, Ala., is in his second year as assistant special teams coach for the AFC champion Steelers.
The former University of Alabama safety and running back played for legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and was part of the 1978-79 teams that went 23-1 and won back-to-back SEC titles.
Prior to his professional football tenure, Jones coached exclusivly in the college ranks with stops at Alabama as a graduate assistant, Mississippi State, James Madison, Cincinnati, Tulane and Pittsburgh.
Jones is surrounded by familiar faces in the Steelers organization.
He and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians coached together at Mississippi State during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
Pittsburgh assistant head coach and defensive line coach John Mitchell is also a former Alabama player
Three Steelers had successful football careers at Alabama in the 1990s and this decade just as Jones did from 1978-80:
Pittsburgh right cornerback Deshea Townsend was twice all-SEC defensive back at Alabama from 1994-1997.
Left cornerback Anthony Madison played defensive back for the Crimson Tide from 2001-05 and Fernando Bryant also played defensive back for Alabama and was a first round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999.
Across the field for the Cardinals will be former Alabama quarterback and Jones’ good friend, Freddy Kitchens, who coaches tight ends.
Jones and Kitchens keep in touch in the offseason and their families see each other socially.
The Steelers have improved on special teams under Jones’ tutelage.
Even during former Super Bowl winning coach Bill Cowher’s tenure, the Steelers were marred by lackluster special teams play that repeatedly prevented them from winning big games.
In the 2001 AFC title game, the New England Patriots returned a punt for a touchdown and blocked a field goal en route to defeating the Steelers.
In 2007, Jacksonville returned a kickoff 96 yards to beat Pittsburgh by two points.
Things have changed.
Under Jones and new coach Mike Tomlin, special teams now are viewed as a strength.
One memorable Steelers special teams play was Santonio Harris’ 67-yard punt return against San Diego that tied the game and changed momentum in this season’s playoff win.
Effective special teams play will be key for the Steelers in today’s game.
The Steelers can’t allow the Cardinals any big plays that could change the game’s momentum.
Guiding this important aspect of Pittsburgh’s game plan will be one familiar with the roads leading from Aliceville to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and all points in between.
When Pittsburgh players come off the field from a punt return or field goal attempt, Pickens County’s own Amos Jones will be there to greet them with a “good job” or an instruction of how to execute better the next time Steelers’ special teams are called into action.
But when the season is over, Jones travels back to his Pickens County roots. He lives on his farm between Aliceville and Carrollton.