While Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may have practiced in a limited capacity in yesterday’s practice, and is reportedly comfortably ahead of schedule, already unexpectedly out of his walking boot, the smart money figures to remain on third-year quarterback Landry Jones making his second start of his career on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
He should also find it a considerably more hospitable environment, and not just because this time the game will take place at Heinz Field.
His first career start was a road game, to be sure, but it was also a road game in Kansas City, at Arrowhead Stadium, one of the more notoriously difficult atmospheres in which to play, let alone in which to make your NFL debut start.
But through that game, Jones gained a considerable amount of experience. He took his first loss, his first sack, lost his first fumble, and threw his first two interceptions—one of which was tipped twice—but he gained a good deal of useful knowledge from that.
He will also have a more experienced left tackle this time, with Alejandro Villanueva getting a few more starts under his belt since the last time he played with Jones at the start of a contest. The first-year lineman has grown in confidence and aggressiveness since then, though he still can be made to look like a novice schematically.
It should certainly help that the Browns are ranked last in the league in rushing defense, while the Steelers average more yards per carry than any in the league, coming off a 170-yard rushing performance from DeAngelo Williams.
Pittsburgh ran the ball against the Chiefs, but did not run often due to the fact that they trailed for much of the game, totaling just 21 carries between their two running backs. The Steelers figure to run the ball more against the Browns’ inviting front seven.
The possibility of Cleveland also being without Joe Haden, their top cornerback, combined with their reportedly stubborn refusal to abandon their man coverage scheme against Antonio Brown—who feasted against it for 17 receptions and 284 yards last week—should also make things easier on him through the air.
Thus far, in three appearances, Jones has completed 28 of 47 attempted passes for a completion percentage of just a hair under 60 percent, throwing for 456 yards at 9.7 yards per pass attempt, including three touchdowns versus two interceptions. He has taken two sacks, one of which produced a fumble that he lost. He has a quarterback rating of 95.7.
Those are the facts for now, as spoken through the language of statistics. He has taken one loss, but he has also recorded two game-winning drives, albeit with considerable aid courtesy of impressive individual efforts made by his wide receivers.
No doubt that Steelers will need their skill position players to be playmakers for Jones on Sunday should he play, but for multiple reasons listed in this article above, I expect him to find more success, and a different result at the end of the day.