Fringe Outside Linebackers Putting The Pressure On Roster Spot Battle

Is it possible for a pair of players to knock one other player off the roster? Because Vic So’oto and Howard Jones would seem to make one heck of a player. Even as it stands, the two fringe candidates continued to turn up the heat on incumbent outside linebacker Chris Carter, who started on the right side for Jarvis Jones last night.

It’s not as though Carter has been a complete disaster, of course. On the Buffalo Bills’ first drive, little action went his way, but he was in on two tackles, though he did get walked up the arc and allowed E.J. Manuel the lane to scramble for a first down.

Arthur Moats came into the game at right outside linebacker on the second series, which was cut short when Ryan Shazier stepped in front of a pass and intercepted the ball. The free agent pickup, however, wound up playing the next three series on defense.

I’d originally assumed that the Steelers planned to rotate the two linebackers with the first-team defense, but the truth is that Moats played the rest of the way with the starters on the right side, and Carter did not come back into the game until late in the second quarter with the second-team defense in the game.

I suppose the logical conclusion is that Dick LeBeau pulled Carter out of frustration for leaving the gap open for Manuel to run through, which kept the drive alive.

But as a whole, the fourth-year linebacker’s performance was, as it often is, nondescript. He did miss what should have been a sack in the second half, which is both bad and good.

Nondescript will not be enough this year, however, if the third-string outside linebackers continue to perform as they have through the first two weeks. There’s only one more preseason game before the first wave of cuts.

Last week, So’oto batted down a pass in the backfield that was ruled to be a backwards pass, meaning it was a live ball. Like a tag team partner, Jones scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown.

Last night, it was So’oto again causing a fumble. Very late in the game, after a Steelers turnover, the journeyman got around the edge on the left side and ripped Jeff Tuel to the ground for the sack. The ball spat out in the process.

Who else but Howard Jones would have been there for the recovery? The rookie undrafted free agent has three fumble recoveries now in two games.

Interestingly, in the second half, Carter moved over to the left side with the second-team defense to make way for Jones on the right side. Carter’s pressure came from the left side, and it was a result of the tight end getting in the right tackle’s way.

Right now, he may just be getting in the way of Jones and So’oto, as they both jockey for position on the 53-man roster. Both players remain eligible for the practice squad. Surely one will land there. But will the other make it on the team over Carter?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Weiss Chad

    Yes I hope so.Carter is just missing from the stat line.He is going into yr four.He is close to being as good as he’s gonna get.These kids are young and seem to have accomplished more in a cpl of qtrs that carter has in three yrs

  • steeltown

    Things are getting very interesting.

    People are starting to separate, no doubt. I think it’s clear that Garvin is making this Team, so Zumwalt will be battling for a PS spot, same goes for Richardson who didn’t play which might be a blessing making it even easier to stash him on the PS, the young TEs are most likely battling for a PS spot as well. This week it was Maysonet who had a couple special teams tackles, but it still appears like Poole is the front runner to be the #4 or PS guy.

    Others like, Mauro, Howard Jones, McCullers and even So’oto are really vying for spots in the 53man

    The concerning thing is the 2nd and 3rd Team Offense, no one is standing out

  • charles

    If second or third O is your only concern, that is pretty good. We haven’t won anything yet that counts, but it sure seems promising. Colbert and T look as if they hated these last two 8-8s and they got to work this offseason.

  • Michael Stover

    I don’t think McCullers is vying anymore. He seems clearly our 2nd best NT.

  • Brendon Glad

    It is a pleasant breath of fresh air to see that the Steelers may have had an influx of talent at the LB positions. For 2-3 seasons, the back end of the depth chart was able to be secured by players who did not appear to earn it in the ways Steelers Nation is used to seeing. So I am glad that some new blood is upping the ante…to the point where Chris Carter may have the healthiest and best camp of his career, yet still be beaten out. Nothing against Chris Carter, it’s more about the levels of play being raised on the back end of the LB depth chart.

  • steeltown

    I completely agree. Let’s hope the coaches do as well.