For seemingly their entire history, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been dead-set on keeping three quarterbacks. While that used to be practically a given, the NFL has seen a shift in philosophy as more teams each season keep only two on their 53 man roster.
In 2011, 13 teams carried only a pair. By last season, that number swelled to 20. The Steelers were one of the 12 who didn’t buckle but could 2015 be the year? Is this the season Landry Jones becomes expendable?
While the team didn’t use an official roster spot on a quarterback during or following the draft, they signed two players who have that background. Tyler Murphy and the recently claimed Devin Gardner played quarterback in college and though they appear to be making the switch to wide receiver, it would be a shock if their throwing background was completely forgotten about. The odds are slim either one is the next Antwaan Randle El but the skillset is similar.
During the offseason, the team added Tajh Boyd. He’ll never be a starter in this league but has an idea of what the NFL is like and has a training camp under his belt.
The common thread that binds Murphy, Gardner, and Boyd is their athleticism. Something Jones doesn’t have much of.
Even with the former two changing positions and the latter lacking the required arm talent, they are all very interesting scout team quarterbacks. It’s the role of the third quarterback. Help run the scout team and prepare for the defense for their opponent while the top two quarterbacks get reps with the offense.
The trio will give the team more flexibility in what they can do with the position. This is a club that will be facing several mobile quarterbacks in 2015: Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck.
Who knows. Maybe by some miracle, Johnny Manziel gets himself in the Cleveland Browns’ starting lineup in Week 17. If the Browns’ season is over, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them spin the tires. Who would have guessed Connor Shaw would be their Week 17 QB last season. Anyone remember Thad Lewis?
It sure would be nice to have an athletic QB to mimic those styles. That isn’t in Jones’ arsenal.
This is before even reaching the discussion of if Jones has improved enough to warrant a roster spot. As each year passes, the expectations from the team increase. He looked marginal at best in camp last year and struggled with getting the ball out of his hand quickly. I vividly remember him being the only QB to have the coaches blow the whistle on him in practice, killing the play. It happened twice.
He’s had another year to work, away from the eyes of the fans, so maybe he really has improved. But he’ll have to prove it more than ever.
It’s unlikely the team is willing to entertain the idea of putting Jones on the practice squad. If they desired to go that route, he would have been placed there last season. If they were going to keep Jones on the 53 over a special teams demon like Ross Ventrone, a victim to the final cuts, it doesn’t seem like the Steelers would have a change of heart in 2015.
The two scenarios that seem most likely are Jones making the 53 or being cut outright with one of the other three – Boyd, Murphy, or Gardner – acting as the third QB on the practice squad.
This isn’t just to rally against Jones though if you know me, you’re aware of my thoughts on carrying three quarterbacks on the active roster. But it’s come to the realization that if there was ever going to be a situation that would finally persuade the organization to change their approach, this is the year.