Nobody has made more key plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers during this preseason so far than outside linebacker Vic So’oto, a fourth-year former undrafted free agent on his sixth different team. But it’s largely been rookie Howard Jones receiving most of the headlines for picking up the fumbles that the 27-year-old has created.
In the preseason opener, So’oto got in front of a pass thrown behind the line of scrimmage, deflecting it, and thus making it a live ball. Though So’oto himself was in a position to pick up the ball, it was Jones who did so and returned it for a touchdown. Jones turned into the headline because it was also his second fumble recovery of the game.
Last week, with the game tied and only 31 seconds remaining, So’oto handily beat the right tackle around the edge, getting to the quarterback and spinning him to the ground, the ball popping out as he did so. Jones beat the Bills’ running back to the ball, picking it up and returning it to the one-yard line before he was tagged down.
The two have provided fuel to the fire that lights the torches of those who want to run Chris Carter out of town. Jones, as an unpolished rookie, would presumably present the greater upside, but would So’oto offer more now if he were asked to play?
Jones was given a head start, playing the first three defensive possessions of the third quarter before So’oto finally replaced Carter at left outside linebacker. He was tested early on in the running game, and he held serve here by holding the point and helping to direct the running back around the back side for no gain.
He was not as successful on every run in his direction, however. Here, on the first play of the fourth quarter, he was handled by the tight end, driven back and to the left (a shameless Seinfeld reference), only getting back into the play to tackle the running back 10 yards down the field.
So’oto did show well dropping into coverage a bit later on the same drive, staying on top of Bryce Brown and breaking onto the ball as soon as it’s thrown. He’s there to tackle the catch immediately for a modest gain of four yards on second and 10, which is a result you take.
Then, of course, there was this. We’ve already taken a look at this specific play a number of times, but there’s no doubt that it’s currently the highlight of his résumé, and could certainly catapult him to the 53-man roster, if not the practice squad.
The question is, does he make it? Carter is the veteran, which the coaching staff tends to prefer. He knows the system, even if he rarely makes much of a splash executing it. Jones is the exciting rookie undrafted free agent who has impressed in practices at times, and has three fumble recoveries in two preseason games.
But So’oto is the one that has been delivering results. He’s just a journeyman trying to catch on with his sixth different team in four years. Is this the year? It could come down to special teams in the end, as it so often does.