Packers Call Out $48 Million Star After ‘Critical’ Mistake in Steelers Loss

Aaron Jones Packers News Mistake Steelers

Getty Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers reacts after a play in the second quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on November 05, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers missed a few opportunities on their final drive to rally to victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10, but one “critical” mistake from star running back Aaron Jones stuck with head coach Matt LaFleur.

After quarterback Jordan Love connected with rookie wide receiver Jayden Reed for a 46-yard reception, Love checked the ball down to Jones in the right flat on 1st-and-10 from the 35-yard line with 51 seconds to play. Jones caught the ball, but he attempted to fight for additional yardage instead of going out of bounds to stop the clock.

“When we checked the ball down to Aaron Jones, I thought there was an opportunity to get out of bounds right there, and we didn’t. And that was critical because that wasted a ton of time,” LaFleur told reporters after the 23-19 loss to the Steelers on November 12.

The Packers hurried to their next play after the Steelers tackled Jones inbounds and managed to stop the clock with 28 seconds left when Love scrambled out of bounds, but the entire situation left them with fewer opportunities to try for a go-ahead score.

“We would have had a couple of opportunities at the end of the game,” LaFleur continued. “It was like 20 seconds or whatever, it felt like forever. He was trying to get us in a position where we were going to have one of the receivers chip the edge. That took too long, just the whole operation there was not good enough.”

Aaron Jones Struggled Overall in Loss to Steelers

Overall, Jones struggled against the Steelers beyond his mistake on the final drive. He gained just 35 yards on 13 rushes, good for a paltry 2.6 yards per carry that marked his lowest single-game average of the season. He did catch four passes for another 19 yards, but he also dropped two of his passing targets, both times on third-down plays.

Mistakes are going to happen, but Jones is the Packers’ top offensive playmaker. They are expecting him to make plays when they make an effort to get him close to 20 total touches per game. He did better in Week 9’s win over the Los Angeles Rams with 97 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, but even then he still fumbled once for the Packers.

In fairness, Jones remains limited at practice with a hamstring injury that cost him three games in the first half of the 2023 season, but the Packers are going to need more reliability out of him if he wants a shot at staying in Green Bay for the 2024 season.

Packers Have Backfield Decisions to Make in 2024

On the bright side, the Packers got a strong performance out of up-and-down running back AJ Dillon in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. He took nine carries for 70 yards and broke off a season-best run of 40 yards. For the first time this season, he also averaged at least 4 yards per carry in back-to-back performances, an encouraging sign for him.

Still, the Packers are going to want to see more consistency from their running backs down the stretch of 2023 with decisions looming for both Dillon and Jones in 2024.

The Packers could significantly alter the composition of their backfield during the 2024 offseason. Dillon is set to become an unrestricted free agent when his rookie contract expires in March, but he has not looked like the same running back who combined for 2,092 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns over the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Without a strong finish to 2023, Dillon may have a tough time making a case for an extension.

The Packers are also going to see their bill come due with Jones, who signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension during the 2021 offseason. Jones took a pay cut in 2023 that reduced his cap hit to roughly $8.19 million, but his cap hit is scheduled to balloon to about $17.17 million for the 2024 season. Even if the Packers want to keep him, they might not be able to do it unless they find a way to lower his cap charge.

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