Sunday, October 18, 2015
Landry Jones shows he's Steelers' top option until Ben Roethlisberger returns
Unless Ben Roethlisberger returns next week at Kansas City, the best option for thePittsburgh Steelers at quarterback is likely a third-year pro who had not thrown an NFL pass until Sunday.
Landry Jones, a 2013 fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma, made a strong case that he’s a better choice than Michael Vick by throwing for 168 yards and two touchdown passes after taking over for an injured Vick in the third quarter of the 25-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
“I just still can’t believe I got in the game and got to play, you know what I mean,” Jones said, chuckling. “I’m still kind of reeling from it. Next week will be next week. Today I’m going to enjoy it.”
So will the Heinz Field crowd after growing frustrated in watching Vick, once again, struggle mightily in the passing game. It’s been a recurring theme since Roethlisberger sprained his medial collateral ligament in Week 3: Vick’s inability to get the ball downfield to receivers.
At one point Sunday, Antonio Brown was wide open downfield and held his hands in the air, but to no avail. Brown has expressed frustration in not getting the ball more with Vick as quarterback.
“It’s been uncomfortable for him, no doubt,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s got a great rapport with Ben Roethlisberger. Ben’s not playing.”
Asked if he has now found a quarterback, with the health of his franchise quarterback still uncertain, Tomlin said, “You know, we have some options here.”
Jones saw brief action in the second quarter after Vick was sidelined because of what officials said was dirt in his eye. In the third quarter, Jones relieved Vick after Vick injured his hamstring on a running play.
Despite Vick’s struggles – he completed 3 of 8 passes for 6 yards – Tomlin said he did not consider inserting Jones before Vick’s injury.
Jones, who completed 8 of 12 passes, said there have been times when he’s doubted whether he’d ever get a snap with the Steelers (4-2). He struggled at times during training camp. And Pittsburgh signed Vick in August.
“Landry probably played more preseason snaps than anybody in the history of the National Football League this year,” Tomlin said. “He got better and it was displayed today. He had the opportunity to contribute in a big way.”
The Cardinals outgained the Steelers 279 to 59 in the first half. Pittsburgh had just 1 passing yard in the half.
Jones said he was grateful that coaches had enough confidence in him to allow him to throw the ball at all. Once he took over on Pittsburgh’s second series in the third quarter, he threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant on his second throw. Then he led the Steelers on scoring drives on each of their next three possessions.
He quickly found a rapport with Bryant, who missed the first four games because of a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. A short fourth-quarter pass to Bryant turned into an 88-yard touchdown reception.
“It was a great ball by Landry,” Bryant said of the slant.
Tomlin did not know the extent of Vick’s hamstring injury. He could start any one of three quarterbacks next week and would like clarity on the position as quickly as possible.
There is at least one person in Pittsburgh not thinking about who will play quarterback next week. That’s Jones, who admitted afterwards that he was still thinking about the touchdown pass to Bryant.
No matter who starts, the Steelers know their identity: Resiliency.
“It’s unbelievable, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jones said. “The guys are resilient … Today we showed the world what type of team we are.”