Defending Landry Jones Roster Spot

Landry Jones holds a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 roster. This should surprise no one, as keeping three quarterbacks is standard operating procedure for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That knowledge has done little to quell the outage of many in Steelers Nation.

Both Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin believe fundamentally in a 3 quarterback system and, however unpopular their decision to retain Landry Jones might be, recent Steelers history has vindicated their philosophy.

  • Conventional wisdom indicates that if any team needing to play its third quarterback is by definition a hopeless cause.

That’s often, but not always true. Since Chuck Noll arrived in 1969 the Pittsburgh Steelers have almost always opened the season with three quarterbacks on their roster. 1989 provides an exception, as the Steelers went with Bubby Brister and Todd Blackledge until Brister’s injury forced them to activte Rick Strom from the practice squad.

  • But outside of 1989, it’s hard to find a time when the Steelers have only carried two quarterbacks.

And, looking at Steelers history, it’s also hard to find a time when the person manning Steelers third quarterback slot played an important role in the season’s outcome. Sure, Noll’s three way quarterback derby between Terry Bradshaw, Joe Gilliam, and Terry Hanratty in 1974 continued right up until the playoffs, but all three men entered the league as potential starters.

Bill Cowher continued the tradition when he arrived in 1992, but aside from the Slash phenomenon and Jim Miller’s relief of Mike Tomczak in 1995, the third quarterback did what third quarterbacks do – hold a clipboard.

The trend held in the early part of Kevin Colbert’s tenure. Charlie Batch arrived in 2002 but didn’t throw a meaningful pass until 2005.

  • But recent Steelers history reveals that the role of the third quarterback is evolving.

In 2009, 2010, and 2012 Steelers third string quarterbacks have started or gotten significant snaps a total of 6 games. That includes Dennis Dixon’s start in 2009, Charlie Batch’s efforts in 2010 and again Batch’s two game starting stint in 2012.

  • For the record, the Steelers went 3-3 in those games and forced overtime in another one of those.

The Steelers created a lot of controversy when the drafted Landry Jones in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft. That controversy only intensified when Landry Jones struggled mightily in both the 2013 and 2014 preseasons. Indeed, if you use Brian St. Pierre’s second preseason performance as a guide, Jones failed to reach even that bench mark during the Steelers 2014 preseason campaign.

By all accounts, Landry Jones improved considerably during the Steelers 2015 preseason. No, he’s not proven himself as a number 2 NFL quarterback, but he’s probably shown himself worthy of the number three slot.

No one will dispute that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Super Bowl hopes hinge on Ben Roethlisberger’s health. Michael Vick has shown he be relied on as a short term backup.

While no one would really like to see Landry Jones standing behind Cody Wallace or Maurkice Pouncey outside of the victory formation, its far better to have him there than some street free agent should both Roethlisberger and Vick become unavailable for a short stretch.

Looked at in that light, Landry Jones roster spot becomes a little easier to swallow.

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