The Optimist’s Take – Tajh Boyd Pushing Landry Jones

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.

No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.

With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.

Question: Does the Steelers’ signing of quarterback Tajh Boyd mean anything for Landry Jones?

Yesterday, the Steelers made their first move in free agency, bringing in former Jets quarterback Tajh Boyd, whom they drafted in the sixth round. Boyd failed to make the team’s 53-man roster, nor did he stick on the practice squad.

Instead, he spent last season in the Fall Experimental Football League, which began play only in 2014. Boyd spent time on two of the new league’s four teams during its inaugural five-game season. He appears to have been the backup quarterback.

Boyd was certainly a decorated college player. He has thrown for more yards and more touchdowns than anybody in the ACC, as he had the luxury of throwing to some excellent receivers at Clemson.

That includes Martavis Bryant, the Steelers’ fourth-round draft pick a year ago, who caught nine touchdowns in 11 games as a rookie. Bryant only took on a prominent role in Clemson’s offense in 2013 and was considered raw when he was drafted.

Like Boyd, the Steelers also reunited Landry Jones with one of his college targets in Justin Brown. Brown, however, is no longer with the team. Brown helped make Jones look good in his first preseason game as a rookie, but he hasn’t looked any better since.

While he was slightly more accurate with the football in 2014, Jones still hasn’t shown any significant improvement, and failed to lead a touchdown drive during the preseason during that time, if my memory is correct.

General manager Kevin Colbert didn’t sound very confident about Jones when he spoke about him earlier this offseason, essentially categorizing 2015 as a make or break year for the third-year player. He told Boyd, in fact, that he wasn’t coming in just to be a camp arm. The Steelers want to have a competition this season, and they had a high grade on Boyd.

While Boyd may ultimately turn out to be a camp arm, he is somebody who could take snaps away from Jones in training camp and in the preseason. The Steelers believe he will be competition for the third quarterback spot, or perhaps all three backups will compete for the spot behind the starter. Either way, this only adds to the pressure that Jones faces entering his third season.

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