Through two preseason games, the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff has made one thing abundantly clear: they want to believe in Landry Jones. The question is, has he given them any reason to?
While there were certainly a few bright spots to the third-year quarterback’s performance on Friday night in Jacksonville, there were far more questions raised by another inaccurate and inconsistent showing by the Oklahoma product.
Given two opportunities to drive Pittsburgh into position for the game-winning field goal in the final 2:54 of the fourth quarter, Jones and co. failed on both possessions, their last gasp coming on a Nordly Capi sack to secure the 23-21 victory for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jones wasn’t all bad throughout the contest, going 24-46 for 200 yards and finally leading the offense to a touchdown that temporarily re-gained a 21-17 lead for Pittsburgh with just under five minutes remaining in the game. Second-year receiver C.J. Goodwin caught the slant pass from Jones at the goal line and was leveled, but hung on to complete the scoring drive.
The touchdown came as a direct result from a Shayon Green forced fumble on the kickoff just moments earlier, when the former Miami Hurricane poked the ball free from Jacksonville return man Storm Johnson for Sammie Coates to recover for Pittsburgh. Four plays later, Jones and Goodwin connected to give Pittsburgh the short-lived advantage.
Aided by several questionable calls that had Mike Tomlin in an uproar on the sidelines, Jaguars quarterback Stephen Morris marched his group of third stringers down the field for the game-winning score, when the quarterback plunged in himself from a yard out on 3rd down. One of the biggest calls came when Steelers rookie safety Gerod Holliman was flagged for a targeting personal foul on a 2nd-and-20 incompletion that placed the ball at the Pittsburgh 28-yard line. Replays showed that Holliman actually missed the receiver entirely.
While the backups couldn’t seal the deal for Pittsburgh in the end, fans did get a chance to see the team’s high-octane starting offense for the first time this preseason, as every Steelers regular starter was out on the field for the initial drive of the game. It didn’t take Ben Roethlisberger and co. long to go 80 yards in just six plays, capped by the quarterback’s 44-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Martavis Bryant, who raced right by Jaguars cornerback Davon House on the play. The Steelers added to their lead by going for two, as Roethlisberger found Markus Wheaton for the 8-0 advantage.
The starting defense forced a quick three-and-out, but the rest of the second half was downhill for Pittsburgh after that. Jones came out to lead the offense on the team’s second possession, but couldn’t get anything going for the rest of the half.
Meanwhile Jacksonville hit their stride offensively, as second-year quarterback Blake Bortles looked much-improved while leading his team to a Josh Scobee field goal, before capping off the next drive himself with a four-yard rushing touchdown. Bortles went full extension for the left pylon on his touchdown scramble, after linebacker Jarvis Jones lost outside containment for Pittsburgh.
It wasn’t just Bortles either, as second-string signal caller Chad Henne raced the Jaguars offense down the field late in the second quarter, finishing off a five-play drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Clay Harbor to give Jacksonville a 17-8 lead.
Jones would later lead the offense on two second-half field goal drives, which Garrett Hartley capped with makes from 29 and 48 yards. Ultimately the effort would fall short however, as the two-minute offense just couldn’t produce in crunch time at the end of the game.