Getting there often requires your stars to produce, but also for some of the lower men on the totem pole stepping up.
When the Steelers waited until the fifth round to draft a cornerback, Dick Lebeau answered critics saying that help could already be on the roster.
That help Coach Leabeau was referring to is 3rd year man Antwon Blake.
Blake was claimed off waivers from the Jaguars in 2013, and was a good punt gunner for the Steelers last season, but didn’t see more than a handful of defensive snaps.
Reports out of OTA’s were that Antwon definitely looked like he belonged, and is currently the Steelers’ 4th corner on the depth chart.
Blake doesn’t lack confidence and hasn’t been shy talking about his goals.
“I’m a fierce competitor,” said Blake. “My mindset is to work my way to No. 1.”
“I believe I’m one of the fastest players in the league,” Blake said. “Unofficially at my pro day I ran a 4.18, just to put that out there. If you look online they average the times together so something different might pop up. But to me I feel once I’m on the field and my adrenaline’s going, it doesn’t matter if I’m in pads or shorts I’m going to run with anybody.”
At 5’8″ he may be limited to a slot corner in his career, but he has the speed and attitude to potentially be a very good one down the road.
I personally think that Chris Carter has had his shot, and that it wouldn’t be hard for someone showing some upside to unseat him on the roster. I was a big fan of Jordan Zumwalt before the draft, but I’m skeptical that he has the size to play outside in the 3-4.
For those reasons I decided to dig into linebacker Vic So’oto who was signed in January to a futures contract.
I stumbled on an article from Green Bay in 2011 when So’oto was signed as an undrafted free agent. In his final two preseason games he notched 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a pick 6. The article actually said So’oto would “have to go out and rob a bank to blow his shot at making the 53-man roster.”
For an undrafted player to make a final roster is impressive, but to do it with such a small amount of doubt is almost unheard of.
So what happened? Why isn’t So’oto wrecking quarterbacks with Clay Matthews right now? In short, injuries.
So’oto has bounced around the league between six teams including the Steelers, usually suffering some sort of injury once he’s there. He also had an injury history in college at BYU.
There’s definitely risk for injury there, but there’s absolutely no risk with giving him a shot. So’oto’s typically gotten attention from teams that run a scheme similar to the Steelers’ 3-4 (Green Bay, Washington, and New Orleans).
He’s an impressively built pass rusher with some long arms, and has a bit of an edge that Steelers coaches are hoping to bring back with Joey Porter on the sidelines.
He got into a fight with a rookie guard last week, and replied “it was fun,” when asked about it after practice.
It’s not secret that the Steelers pipeline of draft talent hasn’t been as plentiful in the past few years. For them to compete at a high level they’ll need to get lucky with uncovering a couple diamonds in the rough. Hopefully Blake and So’oto can be those guys.