If there is one thing that the Pittsburgh Steelers made amply clear last night during their 23-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it is this: come hell or high water, they will get an answer to the Landry Jones riddle by the end of the preseason.
The third-year, third-string quarterback has logged nearly every snap under center during the first two preseason games, with the brief exceptions being the cameo appearances by Tyler Murphy in the Hall of Fame game and the one-and-done, short and sweet series helmed by Ben Roethlisberger to start things off during what was technically week one of the preseason.
Jones, in fact, threw 46 passes last night, which is a substantial number under normal circumstances, but is borderline absurd in a preseason game.
For his efforts, he completed 26 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown, averaging 4.35 yards per pass attempt. He was just three of 14 on third down conversion attempts, as well as zero for two on fourth down.
And yet, again, you can be certain to expect to continue to see lots of Jones, likely in two of the next three games. With Bruce Gradkowski soon to return and needing some preseason reps, his time will be more limited—and Roethlisberger will inevitably play more than five or six snaps—but it’s clear that they are not done determining Jones’ fate yet.
It certainly seems evident that Jones is the only option that they are seriously considering as the candidate to carry on the 53-man roster as the third quarterback, a position that has held firm as long as memory serves.
If Jones fails to show enough to get the Steelers to carry him on the roster, then whoever takes his place will not be Tajh Boyd, who has yet to even play in the preseason, or Murphy, who has yet to throw a pass and was limited to wide receiver last night.
It will take a great deal, it seems, for the Steelers to turn away from their former fourth-round draft pick, and if they go end up replacing him, it will likely only be after acquiring another quarterback off the waiver wire following final roster cuts.
Part of the issue in evaluating Jones is that he is very inconsistent. He makes some awful throws, with last night certainly being no exception, but he is also capable of making NFL throws, even in to tight windows. His sideline pass on the move to Sammie Coates stuck out.
He did throw his first touchdown pass since the end of his rookie preseason, but one can easily argue that he has been his receiver drop at least two more touchdowns, including Jessie James in the Hall of Fame game and Shakim Phillips last night on a well-delivered long ball.
Jones did lead a few scoring drives with a variety of personnel, but he also failed to deliver in the clutch after being gifted the opportunity to take the lead thanks to a turnover. After the Jaguars came back, he threw high to his target on fourth down.
It’s true that the quality of play around him seriously hampered his efforts. Last night especially saw a number of crucial drops. And he did seem to hold more command of the offense. From the Steelers’ perspective, he has shown progress. But they’re not done finding out his limits just yet before making their decision.