In the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s knee surgery, Landry Jones will once again be thrust into a starting role – and Sunday versus New England should be his last chance to keep his job.
First thing’s first, however: I TOLD YOU SO! … Now that my ego has been stroked, back to the matter at hand.
The reaction to Jones starting has been equivalent to that of the apocalypse – maybe worse. And understandably so. Aside from last season’s victory over the Cardinals, in which Jones took over for the injured Mike Vick, the former Oklahoma Sooner has been dreadful.
Although he was drafted in 2013, Jones didn’t see regular season snaps until last season. He’s officially started two games but taken snaps in seven. In those games, Jones has completed 32/55 passes for 513 yards alongside a 3:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
These are not awful numbers, but it cannot be forgotten that Jones’ stats were inflated during the aforementioned win over Arizona. Martavis Bryant’s incredible 88-yard touchdown alone accounted for much of that. Minus the Cardinals game, Jones’ stats look like this: 24/43, 345 yards, one touchdown and four INTs.
Make no mistake: the win over Arizona was a fluke. Jones struggles mightily with the deep ball and panics quickly when the blitz comes. Who can forget when he stepped in for Roethlisberger in last year’s AFC Wild Card game and immediately vomited a pass right into Vontaze Burfict’s chest?
Landry “the landmine” Jones – set to implode at any moment!
Despite this, the Steelers have steadfastly ignored the backup quarterback situation. Bruce Gradkowski, once considered the undisputed #2, was cut this offseason after recurring injuries. Vick was also released after a largely cringeworthy 2015. Zach Mettenberger, winless in his ten starts as a pro, is now Jones’ backup.
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Harrowing indeed. Steelers management seem to think that Ben Roethlisberger is God himself. Is he the toughest player in the NFL? Probably, but he’s still a mortal man. Given Ben’s extensive injury history, it’s rather embarrassing that the Steelers haven’t found a trustworthy #2 by now.
The good news: Roethlisberger is expected to be back in time for week nine versus the Ravens. The bad: the Steelers face the Patriots this week, a game they wouldn’t win even if Ben was starting.
With a healthy Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh has a 5% chance of beating New England. With Jones in, a Steelers win is less likely than being struck by lightning while cashing a winning Powerball ticket. Thus, defeating the Patriots this Sunday doesn’t matter. What matters is how Landry Jones conducts the Steelers offense for 60 minutes.
Although a loss is predetermined, this game must serve as Landry’s last chance at staying on the Steelers roster.
There’s a high probability that Pittsburgh will be down three touchdowns by the end of the first quarter. Tom Brady is going to skin the Steelers defense alive. Start any Patriots offensive player you can find in fantasy.
Jones is going to have to throw early and often if Pittsburgh wants to keep this game remotely competitive. As such, he will have the perfect opportunity to show if he’s truly developed as an NFL quarterback or not. He may never be presented with such a golden platter again.
Keep turnovers to a minimum. Establish pocket presence. Deliver accurate passes and check down when necessary. Call for audibles when it’s clear the matchup favors the defense. Fundamental quarterbacking.
Mike Tomlin said he wants to lean on the run game in Roethlisberger’s absence. He should’ve had that attitude in Miami. This week must be all about Landry.
Jones should, at a minimum, attempt 35 passes on Sunday. The training wheels must come off. Will he keep the game competitive, or flounder early and establish a blowout for New England? The Steelers ought to require Jones throw for 275+ yards and at least two touchdowns if he wants to keep his job beyond 2016.
Landry Jones doesn’t have to beat the Patriots. What he must do is prove himself as a competent, trustworthy quarterback. If he can’t by now, he never will.
All stats via Pro Football Reference.