UDFA Howard Jones Makes A Splash With Splash Plays In NFL Debut

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their preseason schedule last night with a 20-16 loss to the New York Giants, but a preseason game without any major injuries is always a small victory in its own right.

Mistakes were made, and moments were had. The upward and downward trends are only beginning to develop over the course of this month. But one player who certainly sent his stock on an upward trend in East Rutherford is undrafted free agent outside linebacker Howard Jones.

While he failed to register a tackle in his obviously limited time on defense, he started off the game with a notch on special teams by taking down returner Quintin Demps at the 18-yard line after a 23-yard return into the end zone.

Jones is hoping to wrest a roster spot away from fourth-year outside linebacker Chris Carter, whose contributions on defense over the years have been underwhelming, and who only registered two special teams tackles a year ago.

Needless to say, carving out a niche for himself on special teams is the best way for him to do just that, considering the Steelers already figure to carry nine linebackers, including a ninth linebacker that will be capable of playing either inside or outside.

Later in the game, early in the third quarter, after Tauren Poole helped prevent Charles James from securing a Brad Wing punt, Jones fell on the muffed punt and recovered it for the Steelers, giving them possession at the Giants’ 21, which the offense converted into three points.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jones recovered another fumble early in the fourth quarter after fellow outside linebacker Vic So’oto got a hand on a backwards pass. Jones scooped it up and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.

Carter, meanwhile, also failed to record a tackle during the game, though he did register a pressure on the quarterback.

As it is, Carter and Arthur Moats for now will likely remain as the second-team outside linebackers, with Jones and So’oto running the third-team rushing spots as we head into the second preseason game.

But there will certainly be an opportunity for upward mobility in the pecking order going forward, and the undrafted rookie’s first taste of NFL action, without having as of yet fully reviewed the game, could only have helped his cause.

When you make multiple plays on special teams, that is a good sign. Recovering multiple fumbles is even better. Displaying the instincts and awareness to play to the whistle on what was an unclear backwards pass is certainly a desirable trait in a young player. Jones is off to a good start, but it will mean nothing if he doesn’t build on it.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • 2443scott

    he seems to be a good special teams player …now lets see the same drive in next game

  • Eric MacLaurin

    The bottom line is even though he got almost no chances to show what he could do he ended up doing as much or more than anyone else on the team. He also did more on special teams than Carter did all last year.

    I would bump him up to second team over Carter and see how things go next week.

  • Crowned

    Hojo was just in the right place at the right time, twice. I still thought Chris Carter looked better because he was providing a decent pass rush, albeit against nobodies.

  • cp72

    Can we get Howard a different number. That 34 just doesn’t look right for an OLB.

  • steeltown

    Great game for this kid, as mentioned he didn’t receive much playing time on Defense so he needed to make some noise on special teams and boy he sure did that!

  • Tyler Hernley

    I really want to see him over Carter on the final 53. Carter has done nothing for this team and Jones can provide ability on special teams as well that Carter obviously doesn’t have. And if So’oto can play like that he should be there too

  • charles

    Sounds like your making sense.

  • MC

    I think most of the credit should be given to So’oto for that play. It was great recognition and burst to get in there and bat it down..

  • ergomesh

    Rather have Harrison over any of these guys even on a special teams Harrison creates way more pressure than any of these guys and if we are in it to win it we need it

  • Game_Time

    I agree that they must find a way to get H. Jones on the 53 because I doubt that he would clear waivers …. Even though he is raw, he shows more promise and upside than the likes of one Chris Cater who has 3 years to prove that he’s been in a Steeler’s uniform 3 years too long.

  • MC

    oh dude im all for Harrison back. It will be a backup role but cmon, he would be the best backup OLB in the league.