Both are competing for a spot on the Steelers’ roster as a backup at outside linebacker. Their causes have been bolstered, potentially, by their ability to repeatedly find the football. And their ability to find the football has been a job they’ve been doing in tandem.
Then, last Saturday night against Buffalo, So’oto sacked Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel and stripped the ball free on third-and-4 from the Buffalo 35-yard line. Jones recovered and this time ran it 19 yards to the 1-yard line. Following a keeper by quarterback
“Just throwing him up some assists and trying to win games,” So’oto said of what’s been happening with Jones.
Those aren’t the only assists benefitting Jones so far this preseason.
“I’m learning just from the older linebackers,
So’oto (6-foor-3, 263 pounds) is a third-year pro with seven career NFL games on his resume. He first entered the NFL with Green Bay as an undrafted rookie out of BYU in 2011. So’oto has since spent time on the practice squads and/or active rosters of the Packers, Raiders, Redskins, Cardinals and Saints.
Jones (6-4, 238) played defensive end at Shepherd, an NCAA Division II institution in West Virginia. The Steelers signed him as an undrafted rookie this spring and had to survive what amounted to a competitive recruiting process to do it, such was the interest in Shepherd around the NFL after the draft due to his physical skill-set and upside assuming he’d be able to transition to outside linebacker.
“I think everyone in a helmet and cleats out here has a chance to make it,” So’oto said. “I don’t think one play or one turnover will sway the coaches’ decisions either way. I think it’s more about practice day in and day out and being able to come out here and be conditioned and make plays and just do your best.”
Jones likewise is taking nothing for granted. But he also perceives himself to be in the mix, still competing for a spot.
“I feel pretty good,” Jones said. “I listen pretty well to the coaching. It’s up to them.”
Thursday night’s preseason game in Philadelphia will be critical to both would-be Steelers. But should a third So’oto-to-Jones turnover occur, So’oto has a theory as to where the bulk of the credit ought to be distributed.
“I don’t think you can recover a fumble without it being forced,” he said.