Remember when Landry Jones was a waste of a roster spot? Who would you rather have had in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform on Sunday, Jones or Josh Mauro, who was flagged for being offside for the Arizona Cardinals?
It is for situations such as these that Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and the Steelers front office maintain belief in the philosophy of carrying three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. In reality, the Steelers should know this as well as anybody.
The 2013 and 2014 seasons have been a pleasant aberration in the career trajectory of Ben Roethlisberger, who has been more likely than not to miss multiple games per season—mostly due to injury, though the most significant stretch of time that he missed was due to a four-game suspension.
Most recently, prior to this season, the Steelers had three quarterbacks start at least one game during the 2012 season, when Roethlisberger was knocked out of commission for three weeks. Byron Leftwich started until he, too, got injured, and then it was Charlie Batch, who won the only game in that stretch.
Batch started one game in 2011 as well but played in three, with two starts, the year before, when, again, the Steelers required the services of three quarterbacks. That year, it was Dennis Dixon who was to replace Roethlisberger while he served a four-game suspension, but he was injured in the second game.
As a matter of fact, the Steelers used four quarterbacks in 2010, with Roethlisberger, Batch, Dixon, and Leftwich all receiving playing time. In Roethlisberger’s 12-year career, the Steelers have had a true quarterback fire off at least one pass in seven of those seasons.
In other words, more than half the time in Roethlisberger’s career, the third quarterback on the roster was called into action for at least a brief period of time, which is precisely what Jones may be facing if Roethlisberger is able to return next week.
And statistically, nobody was able to fill in at quarterback for Roethlisberger better than his brief stint, though you won’t see me conflate that as saying that he has suddenly turned into a starting-quality quarterback or anything of the sort.
But he did complete eight out of 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 14 yards per attempt, with a long pass of 88 yards and a quarterback rating of 149.3. We all know the mitigating factors involved in parsing this—such as a five-yard pass going for an 88-yard touchdown—but he did play well.
And he showed improvement, and progress, and an upward trajectory, during the preseason this year, completing 65 of 120 passes, with a completion percentage that escalated with time. He threw for 724 yards and four touchdowns in comparison to two interceptions, at least one of which was entirely on the receiver.
He also had a number of drops go against him, including a potential touchdown or two. According to Pro Football Focus, his receivers outright dropped 11 passes. 76 completions out of 120 would certainly look much better. And Jones looked better playing with a starting cast, which is obviously a positive sign should he have to start next week.