Last Friday night, when backup quarterback Landry Jones entered the Steelers third preseason game and continued a theme that starter Ben Roethlisberger began–torching the Saints defense–my Twitter page was filled with surprised reactions from media members and fellow fans.
- “LJ looks way better tonight than he did while throwing four interceptions against the Eagles.”
- “What? Landry Jones is playing well? Is this the end of the world?”
Honestly, there was no real reason to be so surprised by Jones’ efforts last week in New Orleans, when you consider who he was playing with that night compared to who he was playing with eight days earlier at Heinz Field, when the fourth-year man out of Oklahoma threw four first-half interceptions in a 17-0 loss.
For the first time in exhibition play this summer, Landry Jones was granted a full complement of offensive starters (with the exception of Antonio Brown, who left the game after catching a 57-yard touchdown from Ben Roethlisberger), and responded like you’d hoped a Steelers QB 2 would.
Actually, Landry Jones performed way above-the-line for a backup quarterback. I mean, 19 of 22 for 206 yards and a touchdown in what amounted to two-and-a-half quarters of action? We’re talking Phil Simms in Super Bowl XXI-like efficiency (22 of 25 for 268 yards, three touchdowns and a trip to Disney World).
Needless to say, if Jones was capable of putting up that kind of performance on a regular basis, general manager Kevin Colbert’s cell phone would be blowing up from teams around the NFL inquiring about acquiring his services via trade (could probably get a decent draft pick, too).
Actually, what you’d hope to get from your backup quarterback is closer to what Landry Jones gave the Steelers in 2015, while filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger at various points: 32 of 55 for 513 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
You’d like to see him improve his touchdowns to interceptions ratio, but it is worth noting that two of those picks came in the first start of Landry Jones’ career against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 7; and those other two picks came in a 39-30 loss to the Seahawks on November 29 (the first interception happened on a fake field goal, and the other one occurred late in the game, when Jones was filling in for a concussed Ben Roethlisberger).
A Second Look and Landry Jones’ First Start
Let’s take a closer look to Landry Jones first career start against Kansas City.
While discussing Landry Jones’ merits as a starter with someone on Twitter last Friday, he basically said the young quarterback “fell on his face” that day in a 23-13 loss. It is true that Jones turned the ball over three times (he also fumbled on a sack), but to say he fell on his face was a bit of a stretch.
- Against the Chiefs, Jones completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards, a touchdown and those two interceptions.
Not Pro Bowl material by any stretch, but how much better do you think any backup around the league could do in that situation?
But then again, in addition to having short memories, fans (and sometimes, media members) tend to have unrealistic expectations about certain aspects of sports. That “Next Man Up” mantra that head coach Mike Tomlin lives by; it’s not exactly realistic in the NFL–and that’s especially the case when it comes to backup quarterbacks.
If you think the Zach Mettenberg, or any other backup quarterback the Steelers are going to find on the waiver-wire (or even via trade) will can put up numbers that far-exceed the aforementioned statistics that Landry Jones posted last year…you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment.
When it comes to the Steelers number two quarterback situation, Landry Jones is about as good as you’re going to get around the National Football League.
Landry Jones Steelers QB 2 has a nice ring to it. And that’s just fine.