Much to the dismay of seemingly the entirety of the Pittsburgh Steelers’s fan base, third-year quarterback Landry Jones seems a safe bet to land for the third straight year on the weekly game day inactive list, which means, of course, that he will be on the 53-man roster.
The fact that backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has been and is battling injuries during this offseason certainly does nothing but reinforce the front office’s belief in the philosophy of carrying three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, whether for better or for worse.
During the spring, Gradkowski had been experiencing arm fatigue, and the team elected to nurse his shoulder. He began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List and only recently came off.
When he did, he returned to practice with exuberance and energy, but when he finally got into a game on Sunday, he managed to fire off just five passes before he suffered a hand injury as a result of a muffed center exchange from Chris Hubbard.
The injury was sustained to his left, non-throwing hand. The inexperienced center’s snap was so low out of the shotgun that it bounced off of Gradkowski’s shin. When the veteran quarterback went to the ground to retrieve it, he appears to have jammed his left hand into the ground, immediately recoiling it into his body.
It is unclear as of yet the extent to which the injury might linger or affect plans of any kind, but in the immediate aftermath of the injury, Jones, the third-string quarterback, was given the opportunity to play the entirety of the second half.
As has been the theme in each of the previous two games, Jones continued to perform at an inconsistent level, but he also had some of his best moments in his three-year tenure as a professional football player, throwing for two touchdowns and averaging over nine yards per pass attempt in spite of contending with at least four dropped passes.
His two touchdown passes went to Tyler Murphy and Shakim Phillips, a pair of rookie undrafted free agents, with the throw on the latter being particularly impressive. He also connected with rookie third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates on a long vertical route.
His first pass attempt of the day was also a vertical route, but it was underthrown slightly, with the cornerback able to cut in front of the leaping Martavis Bryant and snap the long pass out of the air for his first meaningful interception of the preseason.
But he also had a second pass that was nearly intercepted—very nearly—and his second attempt at a two-point conversion was also picked off in the far left corner of the end zone as he fired the ball off from out of his stance.
We will have to see exactly what Gradkowski’s injury means for Jones and playing time during the last preseason games, but at this rate, it seems that he still has plenty of snaps ahead of him.
He has made strides in terms of making throws that he hasn’t made before, but what needs to be seen now is cutting down on the mistakes that have plagued him throughout his career, with special mention of his inability to reset his stance and throw an accurate ball after being moved off his spot.