Steelers Third-String QB Position: Landry Jones Versus John Parker Wilson


Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones (3) passes the ball against the New York Giants during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The New York Giants won 18-13. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I have been thinking about this topic on and off since the draft, where I was surprised to see the Steelers pick up a QB in the fourth round.  When camp started, I was hoping we would hear a little more about the capabilities (in an NFL-style setting) of Landry Jones and John Parker Wilson.  Unlike some faithful fans, I’ve never been convinced that L. Jones was going to be an automatic fit to the NFL.  I’m not denying he has talent and did well in college, so don’t read into this that I am going to slam Landry Jones.

Now that the Steelers are past their first preseason game and all four quarterbacks played, you can perhaps make some assessments about the quarterbacks.  I’ve read several blogs who suggest some and they all make great points.  Mike Dyce, at FanSided NFL; Ivan Cole, at Behind the Steel Curtain; Mark Marczi at Steelers Depot have some good takes.

Why should this even be discussed?  Landry Jones was drafted and he has to be put on the active roster, right?  Well, that’s one school of thought.  I can see that perspective, but it doesn’t leave me comfortable.  Being drafted doesn’t make L. Jones competent.  Also, there really doesn’t seem to be enough information to evaluate one way or the other.  Additionally, the Steelers’ track record of developing young QB talent when it is sitting at third string is suspect.  The most recent example of Dennis Dixon comes to mind.

It’s the third string position, who cares?  If Roethlisberger’s history has taught us anything, the back up positions matter.  Bruce Gradkowski  is second string and that doesn’t seem to be up for debate.  He looked poised and controlled with his first time out with the Steelers.  So what about L. Jones and John Parker Wilson?  I’m not sure they have been seen in the best light since neither really get first-team reps or played with the first-team during Saturday’s game.  However, from what I see, I’m not sure it will be an easy decision about who to keep at the 3rd QB position.

During the game, I didn’t get a feeling of confidence from L. Jones.  I don’t know if it was the adreneline or the speed of play, but I thought L. Jones looked hesitant and somewhat confused.  Maybe I was looking for that though because L. Jones got some unfavorable press before the game (see PPG article).  Gerry Dulac stated that L. Jones had struggled during the first two weeks of camp and Tomlin was quoted:

"[Jones has] done some good things, but, obviously, what he does in stadiums is really going to be the litmus of where he is”"

Well, after the fumble from the collision with Baron Batch and the Giants’ safety, Landry Jones was trending on Twitter and NOT in a good way.  I’m not sure he is going to get favorable press for a while; however, I don’t think it will live on as long as the butt fumble has.

On the other side, I thought Wilson looked stronger in the pocket  I’m not saying that John Parker Wilson should be the choice either; however, he was getting a lot of positive “press” during camp before the Giants game.  Again, maybe I was looking for that because of what I read.  I saw at least two tweets from Mark Kaboly, of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, that Wilson looked good at QB and had a strong arm.  James Wexell, who is a columnist for the Steel City Insider and writes for the Uniontown Herald, tweeted that Wilson looked terrible during spring OTAs but great during camp.  None of that makes Wilson an obvious pick for the third position, but you have to think that the Steelers are factoring that into their decision.

So, what about the game stats?  Landry Jones was in for four series and the only score was the safety for the Giants.   He completed 5 out of 9 passes for 48 yards and he wasn’t sacked at all.  I noticed that most of his passes were short passes, as if Haley was keeping a tight rein on him.  John Parker Wilson was in for three series and was sacked FOUR times.  FOUR!  He completed 4 out of 5 passes for 35 yards and no score.  While I’m sure you can’t divorce Wilson from all responsibility for the sacks he took, I saw defensive lineman just breaking through the line without much trouble, so I’m not sure Wilson got a fair look either.  He also stuck to short passes and I wasn’t surprised by that.

What’s my conclusion?  Good question.  I’m not sure.  First, I beg the Landry Jones fans to not take this personally.  I’m not against him.  I just don’t think he should be the automatic third string because he was drafted.  But, why draft him if you aren’t going to keep him?  Well, not everyone works out for the team that drafts him.  So, my bottom line is, don’t decide on the third string just yet.  I’d like to see more from both.  I also don’t think that the Steelers should be wed to either one.  The QB pool is a little deeper (for third-string positions) than tight ends I would think.  Perhaps there should be some “out-of-the-box” thinking here.   Second bottom line:  Don’t think the third string quarterback position doesn’t matter.  Did you hear the collective gasp out of New England when Tom Brady was writhing in pain on the ground like a English Premier League soccer player?  All of a sudden there was a spotlight shining on Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow.  Patriots fans saw their dreams of a championship season threatened because Brady might be injured and confidence is low in Mallett and Tebow.  This is a quarterback-driven league.  All three QB positions matter; they matter a great deal.